Thursday, March 29, 2007

Liberia: UN Mission in Liberia Press Release 34: Human Rights in Liberia's Orphanages

The following UN press release is quoted in its entirety.

The bold print is mine to emphasize parts of the report related to
  • resistance to first family preservation/reunification
  • possible international adoption abuses.

Source: United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL)

Date: 28 Mar 2007
UNMIL launches report on human rights in Liberia's orphanages
UNMIL | Press Release 34

Monrovia, Liberia - UNMIL is pleased to announce the launch of its report “Human Rights in Liberia’s Orphanages”, prepared by the UNMIL Human Rights and Protection Section. Human Rights officers (HROs) surveyed 97 orphanages in 11 counties between July and November 2006. The report highlights key findings of that survey and recommends urgent action to protect separated children who continue to live in unacceptable conditions in orphanages, despite the progress made since 2003 in the establishment of peace and stability in Liberia.

HROs assessed the living conditions in the 97 orphanages against minimum human rights conditions necessary for the enjoyment of child rights, including protection from abuse and neglect. These fundamental human rights are fully binding on Liberia as a State Party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Sadly, living conditions in orphanages, especially those lacking ministerial accreditation, were frequently well below the minimum standards.

Abuses documented in the report include poor hygiene, bedding and clothing, lack of education, lack of access to adequate food and water supply, exploitative child labour, inhuman and degrading treatment and separation from families. Most orphanage proprietors and staff did not have the requisite training in child protection and child care. Furthermore, the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare (MOHSW), responsible for the oversight of orphanages, does not have the necessary resources to provide adequate monitoring of conditions and to take action to protect children in these institutions. The delays and challenges encountered by the MOHSW in its programme to close illegal orphanages illustrate the depth of this problem.

The report shows that more than half the children living in the assessed orphanages actually had one or more parents living, or extended family members. Harsh economic conditions facing the community at large have a particularly severe impact on families, with the consequence that many families find themselves tempted to send their children to orphanages. Inducements made to families to surrender their children to orphanages included unfulfilled promises of better education and nutrition, as well as opportunities to migrate to the USA. Orphanage proprietors, a number of whom run their establishments as businesses for profit, stiffly resisted efforts by the MOHSW to reunite these children with their relatives.

In addition to these abuses, the study confirmed that many illegal overseas adoptions were taking place through orphanages, facilitated by weak Government adoption procedures. Such adoptions close any chance of reunification of the child with his or her family and may prevent the child from knowing his or her true identify and cultural background.

The findings of this report are intended to support efforts by the Government of Liberia and civil society to reform and strengthen the national procedures relating to orphanages and adoption. Children are among the most vulnerable in Liberia, and need special attention from both Government and civil society to ensure that they receive the protection they need in order to develop into responsible members of society. The closure of all illegal orphanages, ending of illegal adoptions and the reunification of children with their families are an essential next step towards a better future for all Liberians.

UNMIL PR34 03/28/07

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Guatemala: Children Kidnapped from Orphanage/Some Returned

According to news reports, armed kidnappers forced their way into a Guatemalan orphanage in Guatemala City in the middle of the night on Sunday, March 11 and abducted five of the orphanage's youngest children.

The children were presumed to have been kidnapped in order to be sold on the black market.

Don't know if it means anything, but the kidnappings took place the day before US President George Bush was to arrive in Guatemala City.

Among the children stolen was a baby (M) with a cleft palate, whom an American couple, had "nearly finished adopting." The couple had spent several days with her on several different trips and had been expecting final clearance on the adoption "any day now."

Concerned that the child might not be adoptable on the black market because of her condition (which the kidnappers may not have noticed during the nighttime abduction), M's prospective parents were especially worried about what might become of her.

Being told that:

" children stolen by black-market adoption brokers in Guatemala had ever been recovered"
...only added to their worries.

Therefore, it was with much relief and surprise that they learned that M and two others of the five abducted children, were returned to the orphanage two days later--again, in the middle of the night.

"That three of the children were returned so quickly after being kidnapped, 'is very unusual,' said Audrey Leonard, director of international adoptions at The Family Network, "But we still have two children missing."

The US State Department has reportedly confirmed the kidnapping and confirmed that three of the kidnapped children have been returned. However, confidentiality policies have prevented them from giving any details of the events, any details about the orphanage involved, or details about the children themselves.

Details about the kidnappings have not been available anywhere in the press. Indeed the only general news source that seems to have covered the kidnappings is the local newspaper in M's prospective parents' hometown.

Lock those doors, post those armed guards. Human children are now as valuable as gold or cash in the markets of the world.

A 2 A.M. Call Brings News of Kidnapping To Adoptive Couple, The Oregonian, 03/14/07

Two Days of Agony Over Reportedly Kidnapped Girl End: 'She's OK,' 03/15/07


Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Mozambique: International Adoption a Cover-up for Sex/Labor Traffickers

According to Lurdes Mabunda, head of the Department of Women and Children in the Ministry of the Interior in Mozambique, international adoption is being used by human traffickers as a false cover to legally smuggle children out of Mozambique for use in the slavery and sex trades. This is possible both because Mozambique has "weak adoption laws" and also because Mozambique has itself, per se, no laws against human trafficking, whether for sex, labor, or adoption.

Mozambique acts both as a source of women and children for sex/labor traffickers and also a transit stop for women and children that have been trafficked from across the African continent.

As far as Mozambique as a source of trafficked person, it is estimated that at least 1000 Mozambican women and children are trafficked to South Africa alone each year for sexual exploitation. Even more women and children fall victim to sexual and slavery each year within Mozambique itself.

Mozambique's children, especially those from rural areas, are easy prey for traffickers because many Mozambican families are extremely poor. With little in the way of opportunities for education and jobs, families are eager to provide a better life for their children. They are also far too trusting of those who appear to "help" them.

"They are easily deceived because of their poverty and they think their children will be given jobs and then take them out of poverty" said Nelly Simbine Chimedza, Counter Trafficking Programme Assistant of Mozambique's International Organization on Migration

Several cases involving the abuse and exploitation of adopted Mozambican children have come to light in the last few years including at least two cases in which Mozambican children who were adopted into the US were allegedly abused and then abandoned, and a case in which a Mozambican girl was adopted into Germany and then apparently, subsequently "disappeared."

Additionally Mozambican officials recently scuttled the international adoption of a Mozambican child by a Spanish based organization after "'suspicious behavior' was observed."

Mozambican officials are nervous about international adoption, which has been on the rise in Mozambique for the past several years, based both on these cases and the reports of its use by human traffickers.

"We do not have the capacity to monitor the welfare of Mozambican children who have been adopted by foreign nationals living outside of the country, and this is a cause for concern"

--Lurdes Mabunda, head of the Department of Women and Children in the Ministry of the Interior in Mozambique

Human traffickers thrive in Mozambique,, 03/27/07

,Trafficking thriving in Moz, Sunday Times, 03/28/07


Monday, March 26, 2007

India: Kidnappers Arrested in Adoption Racket

Police in Hyderabad, India have uncovered what appears to be a kidnapping for domestic adoption scheme.

It began on Saturday when a woman was captured by residents of Saibaba Nager on as she allegedly tried to abduct a boy from his home.

The woman, identified as Kalki Darmi AKA "Sujatha," was upon investigation found to have allegedly abduced at least four other children. These included:
  • Ten month old Yesu Babu who was kidnapped from Madhapur and then sold to a childless couple in Bhiwandi

  • Two year old Atheef Khan who was kidnapped from Banjara Hills and then sold to another couple in Bhiwandi

  • A child sold to adoptive parents in Medak district, Andhra Pradesh

  • A six month old who has not yet had a chance to be identified by his original parents, but who is suspected to be Kartik from Fateh Nagar
Sujatha is the sister of a man named "Narsya" who allegedly was known have been looking for childless couples who wanted to adopt.

According to the The Times of India Online article:

The children had price tags ranging from Rs. 7,500 to Rs. 25,000.

"She sold children like cattle"
(7,500 rupees is about $167 US; 25,000 rupees is about $556 US. This would figure out to about a month's salary for a middle class family; or about a six month's earnings for a poor family)

It would appear that sister and brother had implemented a profitable business. Sister allegedly abducting the babies and brother allegedly providing the same to adoptive parents for a tidy sum.

Kidnapper a cog in adoption racket?, The Times of India Online, 03/26/07

IMO, this story illustrates the idea that healthy young children are monetarily valuable where there exists market demand for them. And because of this, there is financial incentive for the unscrupulous to obtain healthy young children by whatever means possible, to fill this market demand. This is the case even in a country which we in the West usually understand to be teeming with "orphans." The truth also may be that India may not be quite as teeming with (healthy young) orphans as we've been led to believe. It may also have a bigger bevy of infertile, middle class couples who are willing to pay for healthy young children then we've been lead to believe.


Friday, March 16, 2007

Nepal: Orphanage Director Arrested for Sexual Abuse

In February, Henk Molhuysen, the Dutch director of a Nepali orphanage was arrested on suspicion of sexually abusing children in his care.

Local Nepali police investigating the case reportedly believe that Molhuysen may have abused "almost all of the 48 children" in the home.

A few weeks after his arrest, press reports confirmed that this man had had earlier convictions for child abuse including one in Spain in 1995 for child rape. He had received an eight year prison sentence for this crime, but apparently did not serve the whole term. Instead, he was returned to the Netherlands where he was released by Dutch authorities two years later.

Molhuysen founded the orphanage--a home for Nepali street children--in Nepal six years later, in 2003. The home is financed by a Dutch foundation.

Initially there was worry that the abused children would end up back on the streets after Molhuysen's arrest, but Childright, another NGO, said that it would keep this from happening. A 19 year old Dutch volunteer assumed directorship of the orphanage after Molhuysen's arrest.

NL charity in Nepal child sex abuse probe, Dutch, 02/16/07

Abuse suspect has previous convictions, Dutch, 02/28/07


Thursday, March 15, 2007

US DOS Issues Notice About Guatemalan Adoption

The US Department of State has just posted this notice about adoption from Guatemala on its website. The notice is quoted in its entirety below.

US Department of State, Notice of March 14, 2007:
Frequently Asked Questions: Prospective Adoptive Parents
of Guatemalan Children

1.Q: I have already begun the process of adopting from Guatemala but have not been matched with a child. After reading the information on your webpage, I am concerned. Do you recommend that I pursue adoption from Guatemala?

A: Although we understand many U.S. families have adopted children from Guatemala in the past, we cannot recommend adoption from Guatemala at this time. The situation in Guatemala has changed. There are serious problems with the adoption process in Guatemala, which does not protect all children, birth mothers, or prospective adoptive parents. The Guatemala government is planning to implement new adoption processing procedures to increase protections. The United States is also scrutinizing individual cases more closely than before. We recommend that you bear these facts in mind when choosing a country from which to adopt.

2.Q: What are the problems in Guatemala?

A: The major U.S. Government concerns about the Guatemalan adoption process include:

Conflicts of Interest: Guatemalan notaries may act as judges and determine a child’s eligibility for adoption and issue a final adoption decree. In the same case where he or she is acting as judge, the notary or his/her staff may also directly interact with birth mothers, solicit consents for an adoption, and handle the referral of the child to prospective adoptive parents. The Department of State does not believe that the notaries, given these multiple roles, can truly act objectively and in the best interests of the various parties.

Lack of Government Oversight: Despite these critical roles in the adoption process, the notaries are largely unregulated. Public oversight is minimal. Particularly in cases in which prospective adoptive parents are told that the birth mother relinquished her rights to her child voluntarily, the U.S. Government is concerned that social services to birth mothers are extremely limited and that their consents may have been induced by money or threats. Monetary incentives and high fees drive completion of the adoption more than protecting the children, the birth parents, and the prospective adoptive parents. The Department is aware of a growing number of cases of adopting parents who have told us that they are being extorted for very large amounts of money by their local representatives in order to complete an adoption.

Unregulated Foster Care: Like the notaries, Guatemalan foster care providers are not regulated or checked by the Guatemalan government for compliance with any standards. Many Guatemalan foster families have demonstrated their love and concern for the children in their care, and American adoptive parents have expressed gratitude for how the foster families cared for the children while the adoptions were in process. Unfortunately, however, the Department of State is also aware of instances of grossly inadequate care for young children in foster home situations. There are cases in which American adoptive families who have completed a Guatemalan adoption later learned that the foster care provider or others in the household had physically or sexually abused the children.

Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption: Guatemala has been a party to the Hague Convention since March 2003, but it has never enacted Hague-consistent legislation or instituted Hague-consistent practices that would provide children the protections that are now lacking. Guatemala has not established the required “central authority” to oversee intercountry adoption processing under the Convention and has not yet taken numerous other steps the Convention requires. The U.S. Department of State, the Hague Permanent Bureau (which oversees the Convention) and other countries have consistently expressed concern about these and other problems with Guatemalan adoptions. In fact, many Hague Convention countries have stopped adoptions from Guatemala.

3.Q: If the United States sees so many problems in the Guatemalan process, why has it continued processing adoption cases and continued to permit Guatemalan children to come to the United States?

A: The U.S. Government continues to process adoption cases, but subjects each case to detailed review. For example, in 1998 the United States instituted mandatory DNA testing for Guatemalan women who stated intentions to relinquish their children. This measure was taken in response to numerous cases in which impostors who were not the children’s actual birth mothers attempted to relinquish rights to children who were not theirs.

Even with DNA testing, however, it has become increasingly clear that the current adoption process in Guatemala does not protect all children adequately. U.S. authorities have therefore increased their scrutiny of all adoption cases. This increased scrutiny means more time will be needed to conduct individual case investigations and that each case will take longer to process. Similarly, more cases may be denied because the facts uncovered during the investigation show the child is not classifiable as an orphan under U.S. law.

4.Q: My agency is very reliable and they tell me that the adoption process they use in Guatemala is good and transparent. Can I rely on their assurances?

A: The Department of State has long advised all prospective adoptive parents, irrespective of the country from which they are hoping to adopt, to fully research any adoption agency or facilitator they plan to use for adoption services. For U.S.-based agencies, prospective adoptive parents should contact the Better Business Bureau and/or the licensing office of the appropriate state government agency in the U.S. state where the agency is located or licensed.

Even if a U.S. adoption agency has an unblemished record with such offices, however, and even if the agency itself is operating completely with the best intentions, the lack of oversight and regulation over the other actors in the Guatemalan adoption process make it extremely difficult for even the most ethical agency to be completely certain that everything has been done in accordance with the law and in the best interests of all the parties.

5.Q: What if I have begun the process of adoption from Guatemala and my child has already been identified? I consider this child my child and I cannot walk away at this point.

A: At this time, the U.S. Embassy is continuing to adjudicate each adoption case based on the merits of the information provided in that individual case. The Embassy, however, will adjudicate each case with even more scrutiny than has been its practice in the past. In addition, Guatemalan authorities have recently indicated that they plan to look more closely at each adoption case. Guatemala has introduced a new manual of adoption good practices. At this time, we cannot predict the full effect of the new manual on current or future cases. We do expect that processing individual cases will take longer due to the necessity of government scrutiny.

6.Q: My agency tells me that it is unlikely that Guatemala will change its adoption laws this year, because of elections and other political factors. Isn’t this good for me, because my case may not be delayed?

A: Adopting a child in a system that is based on a conflict of interests, that is rampant with fraud, and that unduly enriches facilitators is a very uncertain proposition with potential serious life-long consequences. When you decide whether to move forward with adoption in Guatemala, you should consider factors beyond timing. Some American prospective adoptive parents are deciding against adoption from Guatemala now because they do not want to support negative child welfare practices. In addition, a child’s long-term psychological well-being may be affected if the child later learns that his birth family did not freely choose to give him up or that he, and perhaps siblings, were “produced” for the sole purpose of adoption. U.S. parents have also discovered that their adoptive children have undisclosed serious special needs due to inadequate foster care and/or fraudulent medical information.

7.Q: We only want to adopt a child who is truly eligible for adoption and most certainly a child whose birth parents have legally terminated their parental rights. With these goals, can we adopt in Guatemala?

A: For the reasons stated above, we cannot say that the system of adoption currently in effect in Guatemala provides any assurances that your goals can be met.

8.Q: I understand that the process in Guatemala does not adequately protect children, but there are children in the adoption process now who will be hurt if adoptions are stopped abruptly. Will there be a process to help those children?

A: A number of foreign governments and non-governmental organizations have pledged their willingness to help the Government of Guatemala with technical support for a new adoption process with reliable oversight. Many good practices have already been identified.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Stop Exploitation Now

I intend that this blog be, not simply a repository of information about adoption corruption, but also a place that highlights the efforts of fellow fleas who are concretely making a positive difference in the world.

Item 9 of my "What To Do About Adoption Corruption" summary list says, "Find ways to make a difference in terms of the root causes of the "need" for adoption."

Specifically, two of the ways I suggest this can be done follow:

--Find ways to address the contextual root causes of relinquishment, abandonment, and the questionable or illegal sourcing of children in these countries. This could be through sponsoring a family, sponsoring a child, supporting education, supporting an organization that offers education, supporting an organization that empowers local women, or whatever... It could be through urging your government or charities to address issues that you've become aware of; it could be through education of others as to the complexities of issues within countries, or many other things--whatever.

--Realistically speaking, international adoption touches only a tiny fraction of the children who have been separated (for whatever reason) from their family of origin. It will never be a solution for all children or even a sizable portion of the children in any given country. Supporting other in-country solutions for both children who are vulnerable to separation from families of origin (family preservation/prevention strategies) and who have already been separated from their families of origin (solutions other than IA) makes compassionate humanitarian sense.

I recently received an email from an adoptive mother who has combined resources with others and has been doing what she can, in her way with her interests and talents, to address some of the issues of vulnerable children in Cambodia. The result is an organization called Stop Exploitation Now.

According to their website:

Stop Exploitation Now! (SEN) was established to stop the exploitation, abuse, and neglect of women, children, and the disabled in developing countries. We also provide basic support such as food, shelter, healthcare, and educational opportunities to impoverished individuals in Southeast Asia. Our goal is to implement projects that have major and lasting impacts on the lives of those in need.

“Thou shalt not be a victim.
Thou shalt not be a perpetrator. Above all, thou shalt not be a bystander.”

~ Holocaust Museum, Washington DC
Stop Exploitation Now currently has at least four areas of intervention/assistance:
  • anti-trafficking

  • basic needs support

  • development grants

  • acid burn victim support
Please take the time to check out Stop Exploitation Now's website (great website and some really beautiful photos)

Stop Exploitation Now!


Please note: It is the reader's responsibility to vet an organization before contributing to it. Highlighting it here does not necessarily constitute an endorsement. One place that non-profits can be vetted financially is at, Connecting People with Non-Profit Information

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Commentary: Be a Flea

It is my hope that becoming more informed about adoption corruption will lead each of us to want to be involved in doing something about it.

If you haven't read my "What To Do About Corruption" Summary and Details Lists, I really suggest you do so.

The list may seem long and/or overwhelming, but it is not meant to be. It is rather a long list of possibilities--the more possibilities, the more possibility that YOU will find a way to help that seems right for you, according to your own interests and talents. Read the list. Pick something. And just do it. Be a flea. Bite at injustice.


Conor Grennan and Next Generation Nepal

In one of my detailed items under "What To Do About Corruption," I talked about how each of us needs to find a way to apply our own unique talents and interests to making a difference in the lives of vulnerable children and their families.

This entry is about one man who has been doing just that. Conor Grennan, not sure what to do with his life and wanting to do something cool, decided to travel--travel around the world. Apparently he didn't make it--around the world that is. But he is doing something cool and important. He got stuck in Nepal working with children in an orphanage. Then that work kinda evolved into something else. A mission to learn the truth about where these trafficked children--who eventually landed up in an orphanage--came from and how they came to be separated from their parents. He wanted the whole story.

And so, Conor's current work.

Backed by a small NGO he created called Next Generation Nepal, Conor has walked mountainous backroads into remote villages looking for the families of 24 children who were allegedly trafficked.

Carrying his own food, accompanied by a small party of translators and guides, and armed with photos of the children whose first parents he is seeking, Conor is having quite an adventure. And he is writing about his adventures, but more importantly, his work--the truth he finds--in his incredible blog.

Here is an exerpt from Conor's blog. Click on the link below the quote to go to Conor's actual blog.

The purpose of going was to trek through the mountains with photos of the children and any information we had – usually limited to a village name and the name of a father – and try to find the families of children taken by traffickers years ago. It would be the first step in a long process of reuniting children with their parents.

(By the way - this is a long entry, in case you’ve got stuff you need to be doing.)

The three-week search was both extremely difficult and extremely successful. Believe it or not, of the 24 children we knew who had parents somewhere in the mountains of Humla, we found 24 families. Crazy. It was substantially higher than my original estimate of finding zero families. I just didn’t know how we would be able to do it. My four-man team and the four-man team of my colleague, DB, who had profiles of many more children for a separate organization with the same mission, ended up traveling a large team. Together we were eight: seven men from Humla plus me...

Twenty four families. That means twenty four times, I sat with Rinjin, my translator, on a rough carpet outside a simple mud home in some small mountain village and handed a mother or a father a photo of their child who they haven’t seen in years. Then I simply watched their faces. It was instant recognition. If it was a mother, she would touch the photograph to her forehead, treating it as a sacred thing, then just stare at her son or daughter in the photo. I waited long minutes before intruding on these moments, the hypnotized smiles or the flood of tears or chattering with the crowd of villagers gathered around for what they sensed was a historic event, and then very carefully ask them if they knew where their child was. Very few had any idea.

Those moments were nothing short of astonishing. For me, it would begin even a few minutes earlier, when I would see the parents walking towards me through the village. They knew I was here – everybody in the village knew I was there, they gathered on low rooftops to watch our team approaching – but there was uncertainly as to what this white guy was doing in a place like this.

He was amazing, Min Bahadur – tall and lanky for a Nepali, always cheerful, exceedingly strong, and sure enough, he knew everybody we passed on the trail. So it was never a surprise to see him walking towards me with a mother and father following him, with a proud smile on his face. He would say something to Rinjin (my equally excellent translator), and Rinjin would turn to me and say “This is the father and mother of Chandra.” But I would know it already – the resemblance was uncanny, it was always uncanny. This was Chandra’s father and mother, Chandra grew up here, he was a baby at one point then learned to walk and to talk with these two people, in this village, around these animals and these fields and on the floors of these mud houses. Then they lost him. To see his real parents with my own eyes, the two people who were meant to be caring for him the way that we had been trying to do for two or three years, was quite honestly like a miracle.

We all had a lot of questions for each other, but I asked mine first. I asked the whole story of what happened with their child as far as they knew, what they had heard, when was the last time they had news about him or her. I asked what the traffickers had promised (it was always the same – to put the child in a boarding school in Kathmandu) and how much money they had charged the parents for this service. That was heartbreaking, hearing how much they had paid these bastards, how much they’d had to borrow, what they had to sell, seeing how incredibly poor they were. Typically, they may have heard from the trafficker soon after giving up their child before being cut off completely. The trafficker would always tell them that their child was in boarding school and was doing great, at the very same moment that I was finding this same child somewhere on the street half starved to death. It’s sick.

I asked about their families, their brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles. I asked about their economic conditions, how much land they had, how many animals, everything to get a sense of their financial security, how poor they were. The easy answer was “very poor” but there is more to it than that – all of Nepal is very poor, after all. We want to get a sense of how to allow children to safely come back to their families.

Connar's incredible blog:
How Connar is Spending All His Money: A BootsnAll Travel Blog

Now these particular children had not (yet) been adopted out, but their stories are important for understanding how children--some of whom are trafficked for adoption and some of whom are adopted out after being trafficked and landing in an orphanage come to be separated from parents and to be presented as "orphans"--kids who are or seem to be without parents who care for them. Starting to understand the vulnerabilities of these families and their children is the beginning step to understanding how adoption corruption works in impoverished countries.

Please also check out Conor's organization: Next Generation Nepal. Incidentally, his organization operates entirely on donations. And those donations are what allows Conor to do his work in Nepal.

Hats off to fellow fleas, Conor and Next Generation Nepal.


Time For Some Encouragement

When I started this blog I thought it would be an easy thing to keep up with media stories of adoption corruption. In the frequent lulls between stories I thought I would add some commentary, putting some of my ideas into essay form.

I would spend just a couple of hours a day on this blog and....famous last would be manageable. HA!

In the two weeks that since this blog began, the news on adoption corruption that has been available in the media and the number of legal documents about adoption corruption cases that have entered the public domain has been nothing short of overwhelming. With numerous major developments in old cases, the breaking into the public realm of several new cases, and a steady trickle of smaller stories, I can say I am totally overwhelmed.

There is a backlog of articles and primary source material and the stories and the sources keep coming. Forget the commentary....who has time...

In the midst of all this, the picture that is emerging is confirming my worst suspecions about how international adoption is currently being practiced around the globe and about the irrational, self-defeating, and self-interested way that the international adoption community reacts to adoption corruption.

I'm ready for some good news or at least some encouragement that SOMEONE cares or that SOMEONE is on top of things with some energy trying to make a difference SOMEWHERE without burying their heads in the sand, without undermining the efforts of those who would root out corruption and help the vulnerable, and without exploiting those who are being helped.

Well, that good news came last night and this morning in the form of two emails detailing the work of two energetic groups of people trying to make a difference in a two places where children are being trafficked for adoption and for other purposes.

My next two blog entries will be about these people, their organizations, and their important work.

So, heads up for some good news.


Monday, March 12, 2007

Chuck Norris on Child Trafficking

As a part of the commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the abolition of slavery in Great Britain, Chuck Norris is dedicating the month of March in his on-line commentary to "addressing different aspects of the modern slave trade." Today, on Monday, March 12, 2007, he discusses "Child Trafficking Disguised as Adoption."

Chuck Norris says:
What many people don't know is that it is relatively easy for traffickers to abduct children, as they often allured from poverty, troubled families, or the lack of parental care. Even in cases where parents are present, traffickers often sway them by promising a better life, education, and future for their child(ren). Some parents are economically pressured to sell one child just to feed the rest of their family...

...Of all the ways children are trafficked, however, one of the most undetected remains through international adoption, which has been on the rise for years, from 6,472 in 1992 to 22,728 in 2005 in the US alone.

While parents around the globe are presented with opportunities to rescue orphans from impoverished backgrounds, many adoptions are inadvertently masking and perpetuating the dark world of child trafficking. Prospective parents must beware that just because visas are issued doesn't mean the child is not a victim of the adoptive market. Child trafficking is not just a sexual and labor trade--it's pro-adoption too!

Read all of Chuck Norris' commentary of March 12, 2007 here:
Child trafficking disguised as adoption

Thanks, Chuck, for speaking out. As more of us do so, it will become easier to combat child trafficking disguised as adoption.


Sunday, March 11, 2007

Nepal: Adoption Looks Like Trafficking

On the eve of an international adoption conference beginning today, Sunday March 11, aimed at "promoting Nepal as a destination for adoption and [at making] the [intercountry adoption] process [from Nepal] easier," The Nepali Times has published a very hard-hitting article about international adoption from Nepal.

I strongly recommend that all who are interested in adoption corruption read it in its entirety:

Adoption from Nepal is beginning to look like trafficking, Nepali Times, 03/09/07

Unlike many on-line newspaper sources that remove their articles to publicly-inaccessible, fee-generating archives, the Nepali Times makes its articles free and publicly accessible for several years. This link should therefore work for some time to come.

In view of the long-lived nature of this link, I will not attempt to summarize the entire article here, but rather give you a flavor of what it alleges about Nepali adoption by quoting a few of its lines and summarizing a few of its ideas. I hope by doing so to convince you to take the time to read the whole article.

On the sourcing of children, the Nepali Times says:

"Children are often put up for adoption without their parents' knowledge or consent"

" increasing number of children are being falsely declared orphans or taken away from their parents on false pretexts to be handed over to adoptive parents for a hefty fee. Employees of top hotels say confrontations between new adoptive parents and birth parents in parking lots and lobbies are increasingly common."

Children are sometimes taken from parents on the pretext that they will be given a free education, but then those children disappear and end up in the adoption industry stream.

Once they are in this stream, children are allegedly moved from home to home and even across the border into India as they are processed through the system.

Though adoptive parents pay hefty "orphanage donations" that ought to more than ensure that children in these orphanages are well cared for, the orphanages caring for these Nepali children allegedly often provide poor care--"the standards of health, nutrition, and cleanliness are abysmal, and few orphanages provide the stimulation that children need for healthy development."

Children thus come from these orphanages into adoptive care suffering from malnutrition, suffering with skin diseases, and adjusting from a life where "toddlers [are] confined to tiny, dark spaces [where they] sit all day, clutching at the bars of their cribs, rocking back and forth."

Meanwhile, according to the Nepali Times Article, the administrators of such places "display signs of increasing wealth."

On the reason that no action is taken against traffickers:

A senior Nepalese child welfare official says, "We have to be careful about taking action because powerful people are involved."

"'The system is completely rotten,' says an outraged child welfare official, 'and it goes all the way to the top.' The bribery starts from small local police stations and district administration offices, which are encouraged to certify children as orphans or produce perfectly legal, and perfectly false, documents claiming parents' consent to giving up their child for adoption."

Not all children end up in the adoption stream against the will of their parents.

Some Nepali children--like the child offered the British couple posing as prospective adoptive parents at the beginning of the Nepali Times article--end up in the adoption stream for other reasons. That child--who was still in the care of his parents when offered for adoption and whose first parents met with the prospective adoptive parents to discuss arrangements--was being offered for adoption in a bid to give him (and presumably themselves, since they requested that they be allowed to stay in touch with him as a condition of placing him) a "brighter future" than his apparently relatively well-educated, middle class parents could offer.

In these situations, parents gamble a child away in a bid to give him immigration into a land of opportunity. What better way to buy immigration into a prosperous country than with an attentive, invested, caring adoptive family to look after your child's interests, ensure he has the best opportunities, ensure that he is not alone, and is given an excellent education?

This sacrificing in "adoption" of a child or two in a larger family--with the hope that a family's calculated "casting [of] the bread upon the waters" will eventually come back to them with big rewards, not just for the child but for the entire family, has been going on in various countries, like Vietnam, for some time now--incidentally, to the extreme consternation (and emotional and relational pain)of the sacrificial child.

Other articles about the same subject:

This is the online arm of the newspaper that sent the British couple undercover in Nepal to pose as prospective adoptive parents. In large part, it summarizes the same information as in the Nepali Times article:Orphanages in 'children for sale' racket,, 03/10/07


Friday, March 09, 2007

New Article on Child Laundering

My husband David's latest adoption-related law review
article is out!

Child Laundering As Exploitation: Applying Anti-Trafficking Norms to
Intercountry Adoption Under the Coming Hague Regime

The abstract follows:

Child laundering occurs when children are illicitly obtained by
fraud, force, or funds, and then processed through false paperwork
into "orphans" and then adoptees. Child laundering thus involves
illegally obtaining children by abduction or purchase for purposes of
adoption. My prior work has documented and analyzed the widespread
existence of child laundering in the intercountry adoption system.
This article argues that child laundering is a form of exploitation,
and hence qualifies as a form of human trafficking. Once child
laundering is understood as an exploitative form of child
trafficking, legal and ethical norms currently applied to human
trafficking become applicable. Thus, the Hague Convention on
Intercountry Adoption should be implemented according to its intent
as an anti-trafficking Convention.

This latest article is a follow-up to another article from last year

Child Laundering: How the Intercountry Adoption System Legitimizes
and Incentivizes the Practices of Buying, Trafficking, Kidnapping,
and Stealing Children

After this article, which established the reality and the common methods of child laundering for international adoption, was published, as he engaged in conversations about the topic, the consistent and irksome questions that my husband was asked again and again, were these:

Is child laundering--obtaining children for intercountry adoption by
abduction or purchase--really exploitative or harmful to anyone?
Aren't the children better off anyway?

My husband's current article represents the answer to these questions. It uses analysis and narrative explore the impact of child laundering on first families and children and to establish that trafficking for adoption IS harmful to and exploitative of these families and their children.

This doubt about whether any real harm is caused by stealing children from parents in the developing world is reflected in the law's ambivalence and frequent failure to categorize child laundering--purchasing or stealing children for adoption--as a form of human trafficking. My husband's article argues that human trafficking for the purposes of adoption--child laundering--should be recognized as a form of human trafficking.


Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Samoa: Another TV video

This video shows the "nanny house" where children were kept before shipped out for adoption. It also has short interviews with several of the first families whose children were taken.

Baby Selling Scheme,


Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Samoa: Federal Indictment Available On-line

The Federal indictment in the Samoan adoption case is now available in pdf. on-line:

Indictment: United States of America vs.Focus on Children, Scott Banks, Karen Banks, Dan Wakefield, Tagaloa Ieti, Coleen Bartlett, Julie Tuiletufuga, and Karalee Thornock

For those who haven't yet heard about this case and prefer a summary of it to wading through a 45 page legal document(though much of it is very readable), check out my blog entry for Thursday, March 01, 2007, News: Fed Charges in Samoan Adopt Cases.


Three US Immigrants Arrested in Indie Adoption

A 47 year old man and his 27 year old wife, seeking to adopt a child, and a 23 year old woman, who had allegedly accepted money payments of $1500 (including a down-payment on a used car) in exchange for her 5 month old baby, were recently arrested and charged with "child trafficking."

Note: There are no Federal laws against child trafficking, so although the news story reports that the three were charged with child trafficking, it is likely that they were charged under a state law prohibiting "baby buying."

All three accused are reportedly natives of Mexico--the man reportedly being in the US legally, but the two women reportedly being in the US illegally.

According to Nadine Triste, director of the Center for Immigrant and Community Integration, ignorance of differences in the Mexican and US legal systems may have led the three to believe that they had gone through proper legal channels to effect the adoption of the baby boy. According to court reports, the birthmother and adoptive father had filled out papers giving custody of the child to the adoptive parents, and they had had these papers notarized.

"Completely different," said Nadine Triste. "In Mexico, notarios, most of the time are lawyers. When you go into a notario, you go through a long process of legalizing documents and when you complete that, you have a valid legal document... The same can't be said here, and many immigrants fall victim to that."

According to court documents, the adopting couple had also previously sought legal counsel about adopting, but had not gone that route as "the process was too lengthy."

According to the newspaper account, the normal legal process for adoption would also have been difficult to complete given that two of the accused are in the US illegally.

Refusing to speak of specifically of this case, but commenting in general on adoptions in which one or more members of the triad are in the US illegally, the judge in the case said:

"One of the things done on adoptions are background checks on the adopting parents. I doubt very seriously that someone here illegally would go through the adoption process, but let's assume they did. That information [from a background check] would probably be uncovered and reported and I doubt very seriously the adoption would go through."

The would-be adoptive mother and the child's mother,once they have been processed through the legal system, may face deportation back to Mexico.

The fate of the child, who is currently in protective custody in Colorado and who is a US citizen because of his US birth, has not been decided. A guadarian ad litem, a person appointed by the court to "stand in the place of the parent" to advocate for the best interest of the child, is expected to be appointed.

Adding to the difficulties of the case is the allegation that the actual father of the child is not the father listed on the birth certificate. If the father should come forward and ask for custody of the child, it might be granted. Otherwise, the courts will determine whether the child will eventually accompany his mother back to Mexico after she serves a likely prison term should she be convicted of the charges against her, or whether he will remain in the US in a foster or adoptive home.

"Sold" Baby Now in Hands of Officials, The Pueblo Chieftain, 3/4/07

Update involving beginning of trial:
Details in child-trafficking case aired in court, The Pueblo Chieftain, 4/6/07


Monday, March 05, 2007

News: Couple Arrested in Indie Mexican Adoption

A Texan couple attempting an independent adoption from Monterrey, Mexico, were arrested by Mexican police as they attempted to secure a US visa for the child.

They are being detained and are expected to be charged with attempting to buy or steal a child. The two week old infant has been put into protective custody by the Mexican authorities.

The 42 year old man, who is a US citizen, and his 39 year old wife, a legal resident of the US, allegedly had earlier traveled to Monterrey in order to adopt a child through normal Mexican channels. However, they had reportedly been rejected as adoptive parents because they resided in the US. The two said that they did not go through the normal US international adoption process in Texas because it was "too expensive."

The couple eventually made contact with a 21 year old woman who was from the wife's home region and who, in December, offered them a baby. The couple said that the woman was too poor to raise her child and that they merely paid the woman's childbirth expenses. They denied "buying" the baby boy.

“We thought it would be easy to do it this way, but we didn't do it in bad faith,” Ibarra told El Norte. “We wanted to do it the right way, that's why we came [to the US Consulate] to ask [for a visa for the child].”

Texas couple arrested, accused of illegal adoption in Mexico,, Thursday, March 1, 2007

Moral of the story: You can NOT go to Mexico and find an adoptable kid and simply apply for a visa. At least not unless you want to spend some time personally familiarizing yourself with Mexican jails, Mexican lawyers, and the Mexican justice system. And if you think that your ignorance and/or naivete will keep you out of trouble--think again...


Samoa: Adoption and Cultural Background

As I reported last week in my post--see blog entry for Thursday, March 01, 2007; News: Fed Charges in Samoan Adopt Cases--an American adoption agency named Focus on Children (FOC), was recently indicted for serious adoption related crimes.

This current blog entry gives a resource for understanding the cultural context in which these crimes occurred.

Because of New Zealand's proximity to Samoa and its large population of Samoan immigrants some of whom practice kinship adoption, the overwhelming majority of children adopted into New Zealand come from Samoa.

Lawyers practicing adoption law in New Zealand must by necessity understand Samoan culture as it relates to adoption.

One New Zealand law firm, that of Galvin McGowan, offers an excellent, well written overview of both the legal context of, the history of, and cultural context for adoption from Samoa. It is well worth reading. Here is the link:

International Adoption--The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly; A South Pacific Perspective

This site also contains some pre-indictment background history on FOC's adoption practices in Samoa.

It is not pretty.

According to their site:

It took a tragedy to force the hand of the Samoan government to take stronger steps to prevent the possible exploitation of children through intercountry adoption. In June 2005 a couple who had put their four children up for adoption removed them from the "Nanny" house operated by Focus on Children as they were concerned about their health. One of the children, a 17 month old girl, died later that week in hospital. An inquest found that her death was as a result of malnutrition. She was also suffering from a skin infection and a respiratory tract infection...

...While the outrage caused by the publicity given to this case has resulted finally in some critical and major changes to the law the question remains as to how many Samoan children have been taken from their parents and homeland under false promises.

It seems likely that the US Federal investigations into Samoan adoption probably began with the death of this little girl and the uproar that it caused in Samoa against the harvesting, for international adoption, of children from Samoa.


Friday, March 02, 2007

News: Ethica Appoints New Executive Director

Press Release of March 1, 2007

Ethica Appoints New Executive Director

The board of directors of Ethica, Inc., a national organization committed to ethical adoptions,is pleased to announce the appointment of Linh Song, MSW, as the organization's new executive director.

"We searched for a leader who could effectively advocate for better standards and practices in the adoption community," said Trish Maskew, Ethica's board resident. "Ms. Song has the vision, commitment, and skills to guide our mission and will be a tremendous asset to our organization. She is a welcome addition to the Ethica team and we look forward to her leadership in advocating for improved foster care and adoption practices."

Song joins Ethica with a background in social work and nonprofit administration within the Vietnamese-American and adoption communities. Most recently, she founded and served as executive director of the Mam Non Organization (, a group providing post-adoption support for families that have adopted Vietnamese children. She holds a B.A. and M.S.W. from the University of Michigan, and is a Rockefeller Fellow at the Joiner Center for War and Social Consequences. Her career has been dedicated to social justice issues such as equal access to health care for underprivileged Asian-Americans, humanitarian work, research on the experiences of Vietnamese birthmothers, and the fostering of positive racial identities and cultural awareness within the transracial adoption community.

"I am honored to be selected for this position," said Song. "Ethica's work in assisting adoptive families experiencing adoption fraud, its educational programs and its advocacy initiatives demonstrate the strong need for policy reform in both domestic and international adoption. I look forward to working for transparency and accountability within the adoption industry, and advocating for the rights of children and their families, both birth and adoptive. I'm encouraged and inspired by the group's success in empowering all members of the adoption community."

Ethica, Inc., is a nonprofit education, assistance and advocacy group, which seeks to be an independent voice for ethical adoption practices worldwide. Ethica strives to develop organizational policy and recommendations based solely on the basic ethical principles that underscore best practices in adoption and speak to the best interests of children. Ethica believes that ethical adoption services must include family preservation efforts, birth family counseling and advocacy, adequate pre-adoption training for adoptive parents, ethical placement practices, post-adoption services that include disruption assistance, and the fulfillment of lifelong responsibilities to adoptees and their families.

The Board of Ethica

News: Mother Finds Son After 25 Years

Twenty-five years ago, Mary, a 55 year old Indian-born nurse who now lives in Great Britain, was married and living in Chennai, India. In 1998, her husband Phillip, who worked on a ship, deserted her and her three children: two sons - Selvaraj and Manicka Yesuraj - and a daughter Lourdu. Mary was left alone to support herself and her children--an especially tough task for a woman alone in India.

She turned to the local Catholic Church, Church of Our Lady of Consolation at Vysarpadi for help with her children.

‘‘I trusted the priest Fehlooz and admitted my son there. However, one day, my son [Manicka Yesuraj] went missing mysteriously. I had approached the local police station to trace my son, but they closed the file after declaring me as mentally deranged,’’ alleged Mary.

A decade later Mary was finally able to learn something of what became of her son when a church worker helped her locate a photo of him along with some text written in Dutch.

Meanwhile, Mary became a nurse and immigrated, along with her remaining children, to Great Britain. There she continued to wonder about what had become of her son and to continue her search as to his whereabouts.

Mary's daughter Lourdu also became involved:

‘‘I inquired with my friends and got the address in Holland in 1998. I struggled for more than six years to trace Yesuraj. I approached many social service agencies, the Holland Embassy and even private detective agencies. Finally, when I finally got the address of Yesuraj in 2004, his adopted parent T--- P---, did not allow us to meet my brother. They had changed his name to Manicka Yesuraj T--- P---,’’

According to Lourdu, their family had been "cheated by the priest" and the "whole process of [her brother's] adoption is illegal."

According to Lourdu, to facilitate the international adoption, her brother Manicka Yesuraj had been given a new identity. With this new identity Yesuraj had been represented as being an orphan and was offered for adoption. Subsequently he was internationally adopted by the his Dutch adoptive parents and left India on March 14, 1978 using a passport with his false identity.

Mary and her two children were finally allowed to see their son/brother Manicka Yesuraj about two years ago.

Manicka Yesuraj himself was "taken aback by the new development" and subsequently asked Mary to prove that she was his mother

Mary must now do so. (presumably with DNA?)

Meanwhile, Mary has filed a complaint with Indian police who are investigating.

‘‘We have received a petition and if necessary, we will re-open the original missing case registered in 1978,’’ said one of the police officers.

This post is based on an article in the Indian Express:

After 25-year search, Woman Traces Son


Thursday, March 01, 2007

News: Fed Charges in Samoan Adopt Cases

This week a private US adoption agency and seven of its employees were charged in a Federal court indictment with 135 separate counts of adoption corruption related crimes.

The charges included 2 counts of conspiracy; 37 counts of bringing illegal aliens into the US; 37 counts of encouraging or inducing illegal aliens to come to, enter into, or reside in the US; 34 counts of visa fraud and misuse; 19 counts of money laundering; and 6 counts involving "monetary transactions [for] property derived from unlawful activity."

Four people have already been arrested and three more suspects are being sought.

The crimes of which the defendants, Focus on Children (FOC) of Wellsville, Utah and its employees, are accused, involve the fraudulent and illegal transfer of at least 80 children, aged from infancy to 12 years old, from their Samoan parents to US adoptive parents. These children came from 45 Samoan families and were adopted into 60 US families.

FOC allegedly charged $13,000 to facilitate each of the 80 adoptions and immigrations. (In case you don't feel like doing the math, 80 x $13,000 = $1,040,000 or, in other words, over a million $$$$)

According to the indictment, it seems that FOC allegedly lied to both the Samoan and the US adoptive parents to make these lucrative transfers of children--"international adoptions"--possible.

FOC allegedly preyed upon the Samoan parents and exploited their financially precarious situations by allegedly promising parents exactly what they wanted most for themselves and their children--a better life.

According to the Federal indictment, recruiters employed by FOC, used the following to induce parents to give up their children:

  • Samoan parents were told that they would only "temporarily" give up their children.

    In fact, if they signed relinquishment papers, parents were signing away their parental rights for always and forever.

  • Somoan parents were told that these temporary arrangements were a part of programs sponsored by the US Government and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (the Mormon Church) to "assist families in Samoa who were struggling financially" or who wanted their children to have an opportunity to have an education in the US.

  • In fact, the US Government has no such program, nor does the the Mormon Church.

  • Samoan parents were told that their children would be "adopted" by a family in the US with whom the children would stay until they turned 18--after which the children would return to live in Samoa. During their time in the US, these children would stay in touch with their Samoan parents by letters and phone calls. Adoptive parents would also occasionally bring children to see their Samoan families.

    In fact, these children were legally adopted in the normal way by US adoptive parents. These adoptive parents, like ALL legal adoptive parents, have absolutely no ongoing legal obligations to their adoptive children's' first parents--for contact or otherwise--and certainly no obligation to return their legally adopted children to their first parents when those children become adults.

  • Samoan parents were told that if they placed children in this program that they might get financial assistance from either FOC or their children's adoptive parents.
    In fact in a normal adoption, adoptive parents certainly don't send money to first parents. This would raise extreme ethical issues if first parents' relinquishments were predicated on adoptive parents making ongoing financial payments to them.

    According to the indictment, in fact, Samoan parents were given "humanitarian assistance"--minimal amounts of money and some bags of rice--during the time period before children were placed with "adoptive parents." However, this humanitarian assistance allegedly ceased once children were actually placed with "adoptive parents."

Meanwhile...on the other side of the ocean...

According to the indictment, when dealing with prospective adoptive parents, FOC:

  • Often allegedly secured adoptive referrals for new families for "orphans" when those "orphans" were in fact still living with their first families.

    These were first families who were quite capable of keeping their children and who were only giving them up because they believed they were part of a temporary program. Culturally speaking, a scheme of this sort is believable to Samoan parents because in Samoan culture, children sometimes live parts of their childhood with extended family members and then return to their immediate family.

  • Often allegedly fabricated facts about the Samoan families from which these "orphans" came, and the dire situations in which these "orphans" were living.

According to press reports from a news conference held on Thursday, March 1, 2007 in Salt Lake City, Utah, both Samoan parents and US adoptive parents had no idea what was really going on and so "acted in good faith."

The legal status of the children involved is uncertain. Several children have already been returned to their Samoan parents. Authorities hope that Samoan parents and adoptive parents can work out solutions on a case by case basis as they are put in touch with each other. If that is not possible, courts in one or the other or both countries will have to become involved in determining the status of these children.

What is certain is that both Samoan and US adoptive parents are experiencing much pain.

According to a quotes in a story in The Salt Lake Tribune:

"For the birth parents in Samoa, who believed they were only temporarily releasing their children, the pain in palpable," Thomas Depenbrock, of the U.S. State Department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security, said at a Thursday news conference in Salt Lake City. "For the adoptive parents accepting children they were told were uncared for and in need of good homes, the deceit is shocking."

"It is impossible to articulate how deep the pain is," Tolman said of families on both sides.

There is also pain for the children themselves. Several of the older children tried to run away as they were being transferred from their homes in Samoa to the US.

The indictment alleges that the supposed conspiracy began no later than March 2002 and continued through June 2005.

The ongoing investigation is being done by the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Diplomatic Security; the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement; and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Interestingly, the US State Department had issued this advisory about adoptions from Samoa back in 2005:

Samoa Adoption Notice

Recently, a number of concerns about the international adoption process in Samoa have been brought to the attention of the U.S. government. U.S. citizens contemplating adoption in Samoa are strongly advised to exercise caution before proceeding with proposed adoptions.

US State Department: Samoa Adoption Notice

Considering that the indictments state that the alleged abuses occurred between 2002 and 2005, it would seem that the investigations which resulted in charges on March 1, 2007 probably began sometime in 2005.


Links to primary sources on-line:

Feds: UT Company Orchestrated Fraudulent Adoptions: Salt Lake City, 3/01/07 (includes a video)

Utah agency indicted in Samoa adoption scam, The Salt Lake Tribune, 3/01/07

Wellsville couple accused of operating baby-selling ring, (includes a video)