Monday, July 30, 2007

Europe: Bulgarian Mothers Tricked into Selling Babies

Curious about a sentence or two (in the BBC's story on child-trafficking) that alluded to the smuggling of pregnant Bulgarian women into Greece for child-trafficking purposes, I have spent the last few days researching and reading about the practice.

Here is what I've found....

According to BBC and other news reports listed below, the scheme is one that is played out hundreds of times a year.

An impoverished Bulgarian woman (who just happens to be pregnant) is approached and offered a "lucrative" job in Greece. She is told she will be given travel expenses, housing, and most important of all, the opportunity to work and earn good money.

Wanting to better her life, she jumps at the chance.

However, when she arrives in Greece, she finds there is no job.

Instead, the pregnant woman is sequestered--literally locked away... an apartment with other pregnant women. There she stays--fed and housed but unemployed (except for the work her body is doing in gestating her child--the real "work" her "employers" were interested in all along) until the day that she gives birth.

Alone in a country where she knows no one, cut off from communication with home, prevented from leaving the apartment, having no money with which to support herself or with which to return home should she manage to escape, she has no recourse but to stay and wait...until she gives birth to the precious product she is adoptable child.

Meanwhile, arrangements are made to sell the child she is carrying.

Housed, fed, and cared for until she gives birth, the "birthmother's" care status will change with the birth of her child.

If she sells her child to her captors, she will be paid approximately 3,000 Euros and will continue to be cared for and eventually transported back to Bulgaria.

However, if she does not sell the child, then she and her vulnerable newborn will be turned out onto the street to fend for themselves. The reality of the prospect of caring for herself--a newly postpartum mother--and her tiny newborn baby, without local contacts, without a job, not knowing the local language, and with no money with which to buy food or shelter or with which to return home is ridiculous. The woman, of course, knows this.

She is--away from family, home, and community and the support it provides--at her most vulnerable.

She is trapped.

Through trickery and skillfully arranged circumstances, she is all but forced to "voluntarily" relinquish her newborn child.

Almost immediately after birth the child is transferred to the care of his or her previously identified adoptive parents--parents who have paid six times as much money for the child as his/her mother was been paid.

The woman who has produced the child receives about 3,000 Euros, while the organized crime ring which has "facilitated" the "adoption," receives about 20,000 Euros.

According to news sources, hundreds of women thus make the journey from Bulgaria to Greece, each year. Hoping for a better life through gainful employment, they instead find themselves captive and through circumstance forced to sell their own children.

Many of the women thus duped are Roma or gypsies. Typically unemployed, many live in squalid poverty in one of the wealthiest regions in Bulgaria. Their own poverty, a contrast to the wealth around them, serves as an ever-present motivator for them to change their lot in life. They would like to live like this. Those who prey on them know this. They know that their desire to do better in life will help to blind their eyes to dangers they would ordinarily see.

Those who prey on these women also know that there are equally desperate persons in Greece. With one of the lowest fertility rates in the world, the demand for babies in Greece is very high. The number of babies legally available for adoption, however, is very tiny.

Experts estimate [that there] are currently 500 couple waiting to adopt [the] just 54 babies available across the country.

Combine the high demand and the serious dearth of legally adoptable babies, with a highly complicated, long, and bureaucratic adoptive process that may easily take up to five years to complete, and many couples decide either that the process may never work for them or else that is simply too long and too complicated.

Frustrated infertile couples get tired of waiting--waiting for the child that realistically may never come to them. Having the money to pay for a child and the burning desire to parent, they turn to the black market.

Where there are copious amounts of available money, high demand for a particular product, and little legal hope for filling that demand, criminals and organized crime has the opportunity to step in to fill demand and take make money.

Getting this trade under control has proved difficult.
[In 2006,] more than 20 suspected baby-traffickers and prospective buyers had been arrested in a series of police raids across Greece...

--news report in The Independent (as below)

This number is multiplied by the 33 people that the Bulgarian government has arrested on similar charges in the last 3 years since baby-trafficking was outlawed there. However, police believe these 33 people represent "only the tip of the iceberg." Eight separate cases of child-trafficking for adoption had been investigated in the first seven months of 2006 alone.

In its most recent report, Interpol says that Bulgarians have become the ringleaders of the European baby trading circuit and are being investigated in Greece, Italy, France, and Portugal.

But demand is increasing and the gangs are becoming wealthier, according to Greek police. 'The phenomenon is well organised, "said Dimitris Tsiodras of Athens police's organised crime unit. 'The gangs consist of five, 10, or even more people. You need such numbers in order to locate pregnant women [in Bulgaria], transport them through countries such as Austria and Italy to Greece, take them to hospital to deliver the baby and find a place for them to stay until the buyer is found." Most of the buyers--usually childless couples--are found in advance, and the baby is given away as soon as the mother leaves the hospital."

--news report in The Independent (as below)
As for the gullibility of the Bulgarian women...
It is not hard to see why women such as [the woman in the article] are prepared to follow anyone offering her a ticket out of this poverty. 'I was told that I would earn up to 45 Euros a day if I took the job in Greece. What do you think I should have done?'

Bulgarian mothers tricked into selling babies, The Independent, July 18, 2006

Criminal Groups From Bulgaria Among Leader in Europe's Child Trafficking Industry, Sofia Echo, 19 Jul 2006

Bulgarian babies for sale, BBC News, July 18, 2006

Watch a BBC Video Report on this issue: Pregnant Women Smuggled into Europe, BBC News, 18 July 2006

Friday, July 27, 2007

US DOS: Frequently Asked Questions on Adoptions in Nepal

Taken directly from the US Department of State website:

Frequently Asked Questions on Adoptions in Nepal

July 25, 2007

Q. What is the current status of adoptions in Nepal?
A. The Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare (WCS), which is the ministry in charge of international adoptions in Nepal, has informed the U.S. Embassy in Kathmandu that the Government of Nepal has suspended all intercountry adoptions pending approval of reforms of the adoption process by the Nepali Cabinet. The Government of Nepal, which initiated this suspension on May 8, 2007, has given no indication about when it will be lifted.

Q. What is the U.S. Embassy in Nepal doing for American parents in the process of adopting a child from Nepal?
A. We see adoptions as a win-win situation for parents and eligible Nepali children. We are sympathetic to the emotional hardship that this decision by the Government of Nepal has caused American prospective adoptive parents. We have urged the Government of Nepal, while undertaking its reform efforts, to continue processing cases in which prospective adoptive parents have already been matched with a child. The Consular Section at the U.S. Embassy in Kathmandu is, as always, available to speak with American prospective adoptive families and to assist them when possible.

Q. What is the U.S. Embassy in Nepal doing to address the suspension of adoptions by the Government of Nepal?

A. The Embassy is working with other international missions, U.S. adoption agencies, other international agencies, and the Government of Nepal at the highest levels. The U.S. Ambassador has addressed the processing of international adoptions with Nepal's Foreign Minister. The Embassy continues to meet regularly with contacts in the Government of Nepal, including the Social Welfare Council and the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare, to advocate on behalf of American prospective adoptive parents.

Q. What will happen when the Government of Nepal resumes the processing of intercountry adoption cases in Nepal?
A. The U.S. Embassy is working closely with American prospective adoptive parents and U.S. agencies to ensure that there are no unnecessary delays once the Government of Nepal resumes processing of intercountry adoption cases. There are, however, several complicating factors that make adoption cases more difficult and thus more time-consuming in Nepal. Procedures for foreign adoptions in Nepal are unpredictable and the Government of Nepal’s requirements are not enforced in a uniform manner. Fabricated documents or genuine documents that are fraudulently obtained are readily available and often at variance with the facts of the case. The complete facts of many adoption cases are uncertain and the U.S. Consular Officers must often conduct lengthy investigations. In Kathmandu, as in many places around the world, Consular Officers have been granted the authority to adjudicate I-600 petitions on behalf of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) but only if the petitions are "clearly approvable." Some cases must be sent to the DHS regional office in New Delhi for review. Other delays are beyond the control of the U.S. Embassy, as the approval of adoption cases by the Government of Nepal is unpredictable and varies in length from six months to two years.

Frequently Asked Questions on Adoptions in Nepal, US Department of State, Intercountry Adoption News, 25 July 2007

Europe: BBC Exposes Trade in Bulgarian Children

Posing as a man who wanted to adopt a child for himself and his childless wife but who had been prevented from legally doing so because of a criminal record, a BBC reporter went underground in hopes of exposing the illegal trade in Bulgarian children.

Through contacts he found a man named Harry who, for the price of 50,000 to 60,000 euros ($69,000 to $82,000 US dollars), purported to be able to supply him with a child.

He was part of a criminal gang working out of the coastal resort of Varna - a popular destination for foreign holiday-makers.
Harry knew his business. The man boasted of trafficking both women and children across Europe and of a previous conviction in Germany for human trafficking. As the two drove away their initial meeting place of a petrol (gas) station, switching cars along the way to avoid being trailed, Harry proudly pointed out prostitutes that he had "put to work."

Then, chillingly, he said that children were now part of his portfolio. During a secret recording, he said he had successfully smuggled them into two countries - Norway and Germany.
Harry offered false Bulgarian adoption papers and detailed advice on how to smuggle the child across Europe and into the UK. Or, if preferred, for a price, he could provide passage of the child into the UK himself.

Harry offered the undercover BBC reporter his choice of children, showing photos of two possible children. The first was a "beautiful, little girl with dark hair, olive skin, and blue eyes" who was from a poor Turkish family. The second, a pale, blond haired girl.

Another day a few weeks later, Harry arranged for the prospective buyer to meet, in various ever-changing places, a few possible children: a toddler whose mother couldn't afford to keep her, a grandfather who was selling his grandchild without the knowledge of the child's mother, and a child being sold by her father because he already had seven children.

The BBC team turned the evidence they had gathered over to the authorities and Harry was arrested soon after.

The reasons that children are being offered for sale in Bulgaria are apparently several:

1) crushing poverty (makes it hard to support child and makes families desperate for money)
2) rampant, hard-to-control organized crime
3) social welfare organizations that are too new to be effective
4) children's rights laws that are also relatively new and therefore also not effective
5) the tradition within Bulgarian culture which says that the state should not interfere in family matters

Children are being offered for illegal adoption without any check on the motivations and purposes of the adopting persons. This leaves the children trafficked vulnerable not only for adoption by persons who might not otherwise be able to adopt, but for sexual exploitation and slavery.

Children might even become vulnerable for something that Harry himself mentions when meeting with the undercover BBC reporter--exploitation for body parts. (This is supposed to be an urban myth--the body parts thing--but it is interesting that the accused criminal trafficker himself mentions it. I pray that Harry is simply as ill-informed as the rest of us... and that he isn't speaking from his own knowledge as a human trafficker...)

That children have become valuable commodities in a world market keen for them is simply reality. That organized crime and ordinary criminals often exploit the market hunger for children by prying out of financially or otherwise extremely stressed and distressed families, their most vulnerable and exploitable members is also reality.

Anyone who continues to refuse to believe that the above could be true is simply either hopelessly naive or else has a personal stake in believing that it is not so.

Watch the film: BBC Films Baby Smuggler

Read the article:How BBC exposed Bulgarian baby trade, BBC News online, July 26, 2007

Bulgarian Man Caught Trafficking in Babies,, July 27, 2007

BBC exposes Bulgarian baby trade, Focus News Agency, July 27, 2007

BBC Reveals Baby Trafficking Channel in Varna, July 27, 2007


Thursday, July 26, 2007

Europe: French Authorities Issue Advisory About Trade in Young Children

In June 2007, French authorities issued a warning stating that they are "investigating a trade in young children."

According to an article in the Telegraph online, this warning is based on four incidents that recently took place in Southern France, Monaco, and Portugal:

1) In June 2007, shoppers at a Monaco hypermarket (a large store like Walmart) scuttled and then reported to the police, the attempted kidnapping of a four year old girl.

The would-be kidnapper hastily attempted to cut off the young girl's hair. She cried and fled, creating a scene that caused shoppers to come to her rescue.

Once shoppers had prevented the kidnapping, the would-be kidnapper fled in "a car with foreign tags."

2) The arrest in May 2007, of two Romanian couples for the attempted sale of a two month old the parking lot of a hypermarket near Angouleme, north of Bordeaux.

The child was reportedly being offered to passersby "for anything between 10,000 to 15,000 euros."

"How much do you offer?" a male member of the gang is said to have shouted at shoppers as he held the crying baby aloft...
Once again, shoppers scuttled the criminal activity when they alerted authorities. Guards successfully detained the accused--who attempted to fight their way free with weapons that included a baseball bat--until police arrived.

3) The May 2007, arrest of a woman and eight accomplices for trying to sell (what was presumed to be) the woman's four-month-old infant in the parking lot of a supermarket in Portugal.

4) The internationally high-profile abduction of Madeleine McCann from her family's vacation apartment in Praia da Luz, Portugal in May 2007.

The Portuguese media reported that the PJ [Portuguese police] are pursuing two lines of investigation [for Madeleine's abduction]: an abduction by an international paedophilia network or an abduction by an illegal adoption network.

--from the Wikipedia article, The Disappearance of Madeleine McCann

Babies for Sale at Car Park "Gang Auctions,", June 23, 2007


Sunday, July 22, 2007

Guatemala: Stolen Baby Rescued

Much US media attention is being paid to the rescue from an orphanage in Guatemala of a two month old child stolen from his Guatemalan family's home last month.

A false birth certificate was found in the orphanage where the child was being held.

Four people--the orphanage director and three orphanage employees--were arrested upon discovery of the child.

It is assumed that this baby was being prepared for illegal adoption, although just how those who were supposedly planning this might have been hoping to dodge the DNA testing requirement and offer him for adoption, remains unclear.

"Our investigations indicate that they were already at the stage of processing the adoption," [assistant chief of criminal investigations for the police] Esquivel said.

However, Guatemala's Attorney General's office, the institution that oversses adoptions, said that so far no application for the baby's adoption either under his real or false name, had yet been found. The baby could have had another fake birth certificate or the suspects may have not yet filed the application."

The multitudenous articles covering this case--as far as I can tell, more than 50 (so many in fact, that I gave up trying to list all the URL's below)--go on to explain the current state of adoption in Guatemala:

The U.S. State Department, citing rampant problems of fraud and extortion, said in March it no longer recommends that Americans adopt children from Guatemala. U.S. officials have said there were frequent cases of birth mothers pressured to sell their babies and adoptive U.S. parents targeted by extortionists.

Guatemalan police rescue stolen baby, Yahoo News, July 18, 2007

Guatemalan Police Rescue Stolen Baby,, July, 18, 2007

Guatemalan Police Rescue Stolen Baby,, July 18, 2007

Guatemalan Police Rescue Stolen Baby,, July 18, 2007

etc. etc. etc.

(if you want to see them all, google "Guatemala Stolen Baby Rescued)


Thursday, July 19, 2007

Guatemala: Citizens Outraged by Reports of Baby-Snatching for IA Hold 11 Policemen Hostage

The violence began the week of July 11, 2007 in the jungle town of Sayaxche when Guatemalan citizens, wielding sticks and machetes, and outraged about reports of babies being snatched to be sold for international adoption, apprehended a man and a woman rumored to be running a child trafficking ring.

The man, 45 year old Leopoldo Cahuil, was allegedly beaten to death, and the woman "detained." Roads were blocked and the mayor's house burned.

A week later on Wednesday, July 18, 2007 the citizens, still concerned about newspaper reports of Guatemalan children being snatched to be sold for international adoption again took to the streets in protest.

Eleven police officers were being held hostage by an angry mob of about 3,000 concerned Guatemalan residents.

At least 100 policemen and 125 soldiers had been dispatched in an effort to free the hostages and disperse the angry crowd.

"'Right now, the hostages, who are being held in the town square, are not hurt,' police spokesman Carlos Calju said. Officials are trying to convince the mob to release the the police officers in exchange for four men who were arrested for the alleged murder [of the suspected child trafficker].

'If not, we will take them out by force,' Calju said."

--quote from

This community is not the only one to erupt into violence at the perceived threat of child traffickers preying on the families and children in Guatemalan communities:
"Several [Guatemalan] communities have attacked suspected [child-trafficking] culprits, sometimes beating and burning them alive."

--quote from

Angry Villagers Hold 11 Police Hostage in Guatemala,, July 18,2007


Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Mirah Riben on Revictimizing the Victim

The following is an essay by fellow flea Mirah Riben about the continued victimization of Masha Allen. Poor adoption practice does not result in a one time injury, but sets up a situation in which children continue to be hurt emotionally, physically, relationally, and psychologically for years to come. In some cases poor adoption practice makes children vulnerable to continuing exploitation for years and decades to come....even for a lifetime.

Please read Mirah's essay and join us in trying to fight this continued exploitation of one adoptee whose nightmare began with poor adoption practice....and never seems to writing to and Barnes & Noble and expressing your outrage.

If enough people care enough to write, perhaps this ugly chapter in this adoptee's exploitation can be shortened.


Revictimizing the Victim

by Mirah Riben

Imagine at the age of five leaving everything you've ever known and
coming to a new country, with a totally different language, all
alone. You are told you will have a new family to love and care for
you and instead, you discover on your very first night that you
don't even have your won room or even your own bed but are expected
to share a bed with a 46-year-old pedophile who will rape you
repeatedly at will for years on end. Afraid to ask for help, you
wait and wait for someone to come to check up on you and take you
from this nightmare of abuse. Post-placement supervision is required
in Pennsylvania, where Masha lived with Mancuso, but only for
domestic adoptions from foster care. However, no such law exists for
international placement in violation of Russian regulations for post-
placement visits and reports.

The international trafficking and sale of this little girl,
Masha, to pedophile pornographer Matthew Mancuso goes under the
heading a legal US adoption. Mancuso, a retired engineer from Plum,
Pennsylvania, found his victim, Masha through an adoption agency in
Cherry Hill, New Jersey. Mancuso requested a five- or six-year-old,
blonde, blue-eyed girl and picked Masha from videotapes the agency
sent him.
Jeannene Smith handled Masha's adoption through an Indiana-based
agency called Families Thru International Adoption (FTIA). Fired by
FTIA midway through the process, Smith went to New Jersey and
founded another agency, Reaching Out Thru International Adoption
(ROTIA), which finished the adoption and was supposed to do post-
placement checks as required by Russian law.
No one associated with the agencies in either Indiana or New
Jersey conducted a home study that would have revealed no room
awaiting the child he planned to "adopt." Nor did anyone at either
agency interview Mancuso's former wife, or his daughter, who alleges
that he molested her. Smith has since co-founded a lobbying group
called Focus on Adoption, which lobbies on behalf of agencies that
facilitate international adoptions. She has not commented on the
case publicly, citing confidentiality laws.
Masha is not the only child to be trafficked and sold to a
pedophile through a US adoption agency. William (Bill) D.
Peckenpaugh, from Marion County, Oregon, traveled to Romania to
adopt a nine-year-old boy in 2001 through Tree of Life Adoption
Center of Portland, Oregon.
Peckenpaugh, who claimed to be a Catholic bishop, was a member
of the American Association for Nude Recreation. He is also the
author of "Familial and Societal Attitudes toward Nudity, and the
Effects on Children's Development," an article quoted by nudists and
naturists alleging that naturist children are less sexually active
and more emotionally healthy than non-naturist children.
As with Masha, the crime was discovered only after a sexually
graphic video was found in a camera that had been returned to an
electronics store. Peckenpaugh pleaded guilty to a total of thirty-
three charges, including first-degree sodomy, two counts of sex
abuse, and one count of using a child for the purpose of sexual
display, and was sentenced in 2005 to thirty years in prison. Darin
Tweedt of the Marion County D.A.'s office called the Romanian boy's
tragic journey from an East European orphanage to a life of sex
abuse in Marion County "off the charts."

Masha was rescued in an FBI sting porn sting that had followed
pictures of on the Internet for years. At thirteen years of age,
with pictures of her still online, she had the courage to go public,
in an effort to urge abused children to tell someone. Masha worked
with lawmakers to forge a bill known as "Masha's Law." The bill was
introduced by John F. Kerry (D-MA) in recognition of the fact that
child pornography "prolongs the child abuse indefinitely—long after
the child is rescued." The bill has passed but the abuse lingers
on. "My pictures that are on the Internet disturb me more than what
Matthew did because I know that the abuse stopped but those pictures
are still on the Internet" Masha said in a Prime Time Live
interview, January 2006.

Another victim of childhood sexual abuse from stepfather would
up a 70-pound anorexic at age 21. She found her way through
charitable organizations, she found her way to Judge Cheryl Allen of
Pennsylvania who took her into her home and helped her get
rehabilitation, a job, then within three years approval as a foster
parent. The grateful woman took the name Faith Elezabeth Allen.
The third child given to Faith Allen to foster was none other
than Masha, then 11-years-old. Judge Allen thinking the two could
help heal one another's sexual abuses, finalized the adoption and
Masha became Mea (Masha Elizabeth Allen) Allen.
But this tale of abuse does not end here with happily-ever-after.
Masha aka Mea Allen is yet to be raped abused all over again by
one Peter Stotis, a writer of sadistic and pedophilic sexual
impulses in their many, often hidden, guises. Often using first
person narratives, his prose takes on the point of view of the
sexual predator. Sotos's newest book, Show Adult, composed of two
film-scripts, the first about editing and content, the second
concerned with acting, direction, and instructions/vanity. Sotos,
who considers Masha Allen "a child porn star," reportedly devotes a
large portion of the book to her past, present and future

Masha is the only living victim of child pornography Sotos has
written about. The author is silent about whether or not he obtained
the legal rights to Masha's story or the use of her name and
likeness in advertising the book. Such unauthorized use is illegal
under the New York Civil Rights law which permits an injunction on
publication and monetary damages.

As of this writing, Barnes & Noble and are both—
incredibly—taking pre-publication orders for the book which profits
from and continued the sexploitation of innocent victims.
We need to stop the spread of child pornography and we need to
create regulations to ensure that no child is sold as a sex slave
through the process of adoption in this country.

Take action -- click here to contact your local newspaper or
congress people:
Boycott "Show Adult" and tell and Barnes & Noble to cease
sales of the book

Click here to see the most recent messages sent to congressional
reps and local newspapers

Author of "shedding light on...The Dark Side of Adoption" (1988)
and "The Stork Market: America's Multi-Billion Dollar Unregulated
Adoptuion Industry" (2007)

MIRAH (aka Marsha) RIBEN has been researching, writing and speaking
about the need to reform, humanize, and de-commercialize American
adoption practices for nearly three decades.

Former Director-at-Large of the American Adoption Congress, is co-
founder of Origins, a New Jersey-based national organization for
women who have lost children to adoption.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

India: Lost Children and Adoptable "Orphans"

We take certain things for granted in the developed world. One of these is the speedy return to their parents (by the government) of accidentally lost or missing children.

This is not the case everywhere in the world.

According to an article on India's Tehelka online, one of these places is Delhi, India.

There, purportedly, the discovery and reunion to their parents of lost and missing children is sometimes purposefully being made more difficult or even impossible in order to supply adoptable "orphaned" children to profiteering private adoption agencies.

Given India's child welfare system this should NOT be happening.

India's Child Welfare System In Regard to Lost Children and Adoption

Theoretically and practically, India's child welfare system has made excellent provision, not only for aiding the return to their parents of lost children, but also for the regulation of adoption to prevent child trafficking:

  • India has a national missing child hotline, Childline

  • India's national Juvenile Justice Act contains, among other things, exemplary nationally mandated procedures and regulations to facilitate the discovery and reunion to their parents of lost and stolen children

  • India has a functioning national system of local Child Welfare Councils who are invested with the authority and judicial power to protect "the welfare of children who need care and protection"

  • India has a federal governmental committee, the Central Adoption Resource Agency (CARA) with the mandated authority to regulate and oversee both the domestic and foreign adoption of Indian children.

  • The Central Adoption Resource Agency or CARA has exemplary, nationally-binding, clear, concise, and well-thought-out regulations for adoption (specifically written with an eye for keeping adoption from morphing into child trafficking)

  • India has adequate governmental organization, local police forces, and local NGO's which should be knowledgeable about laws, be able to report abuses, be able to follow/enforce regulations, and be able to coordinate child welfare efforts according to mandated procedures and applicable laws.
All of these pieces together should ensure that lost/missing children are found and returned to their parents in a prompt manner. It should ensure that vulnerable children aren't co-opted for a lucrative adoption market.

But somehow, it doesn't seem to do so.

To help readers understand just how such a system could be and is failing families and children, the Tehelka article tells the anecdotal story of an Indian family whose child is lost from them and then examines the a "confidential" 2005 report on the functioning of private adoption agencies within the child welfare system.

Difficulties in Retrieving A "Found" Lost Child

The anecdotal story of one Delhi couple illustrates just how hard it can be to retrieve a child from the system even after he is "found."

A Delhi couple's young son was kidnapped by someone hoping to "settle a score" with them and then purposefully "lost" from his parents by being set loose alone in a major railway station.

As soon as the horrified parents discovered their son was missing, they began frantically searching for him.

A day later they found him at a local home run by a private adoption agency. Instead of returning their lost son promptly as required by law, orphanage officials were reportedly "extremely uncooperative"--to the extent that they even refused to let the parents see their son.
"After hour of waiting and pleading, [our son] was finally shown only to my wife and that too from a distance of some 10-15 yards."

--An Indian father speaking of what happened when he located his missing son at a private adoption agency
The orphanage refused to return the son and the parents were told to come back three days later, on Monday.

"They again refused to entertain us on Monday. We then had to go to the juvenile court, which directed us to the Child Welfare Committee [in another area of town.]"

--An Indian father speaking of what happened when he located his missing son at a private adoption agency
A day later, four full days after finding their lost son at the orphanage, the parents were finally allowed, with the intervention of the Child Welfare Committee and "some good Samaritans," to take their son home again.

Not all parents are so fortunate or resourceful. Not every couple is able, on their own, to successfully trace their missing child and find him. Not all parents have the tenacious hopefulness that it takes to keep trying to in the face of serious or seemingly insurmountable hurdles. In a extremely economically stratified and socially hierarchical society, those "at the bottom" may have already learned that they "can't win" and that their efforts will only bring them more misery--poor people in someplaces have been conditioned to expect beatings whenever they complain or ask for help and justice from those in authority. Not all parents are as resourceful in finding appropriately helpful aid.

In short, the Delhi couple was lucky in that their story ended happily. Many similar stories don't.

In Delhi India alone, during the three years of 2004, 2005, and 2006, a total of 6,687 children, reported missing by their parents, were declared "untraceable" by the Crime Branch's Missing Person's Squad.

This means that 6,687 families, who had enough tenacity and hope to make the effort to file police reports in an effort to get help in tracing their missing child(ren), have been told that there is little to no hope of finding their children. For all practical purposes these children might as well have vanished into thin air.
"A senior Department of Social Welfare (DSW) official lays the blame for this on voluntary adoption agencies. 'They [the missing children] are fated to live either an orphan's or an adopted child's life, all thanks to various voluntary organisations.'"

The Problem of Missing Children and the "Confidential" 2005 Department of Social Welfare Report on the Functioning of Voluntary Private Adoption Agencies

According to Tehelka online which claims access to this "confidential" report, the Department of Social Welfare found that voluntary adoption agencies including the specific one in the previous anecdotal story, "routinely flaunt norms and rules" concerning lost children and adoption. But the problem goes beyond the voluntary adoption agencies alone:
"[The] 2005 DSW report states, 'Childline and the police are unduly helping [the adoption agencies] in procuring children for [themselves] in violation of statutory provisions.'"
Violations of child welfare provisions, according to the report, purportedly include the following:
  • "Found" lost children taken directly to private adoption agencies without first registering them with the police or the local Child Welfare Committees.

  • Adoption agencies failing to notify (as mandated) the police, the local Child Welfare Committee, and Childline (the national hotline for missing children) of the receipt of "lost" children into their institution.

  • Note: If governmental authorities are not notified that "lost" children have been taken into care, there is no official record of their having been "found." Children "found" in this way, despite being "in care" effectively disappear without a trace for all practical purposes. Taking children off of the streets and into an institution without reporting their whereabouts to the proper authorities actually makes it harder, not easier, for their parents to find them. Without official records that can be shared between official governmental offices, parents are must visit every possible institution within a city in order to look for their lost children. In a large city like Delhi this could make it practically impossible for children to be found once they are lost from parents.

  • Adoption agencies who receive lost children failing to prepare individual child histories and failing to review individual children's cases in a timely manner or at all.

  • "Such history sheets could help in tracing the natural parents of a lot of children. These agencies have thus separated innumerous children from their natural their urge to mint money through adoptions."
  • Complying with the Juvenile Justice Act's requirement that found "lost" children be advertised in newspapers, in such a way that it is unlikely that searching parents would either 1) see the ad and 2) recognize their child in the vague and inaccurate information contained therein.

  • "The JJA states that before putting up a child for adoption, the adoption agency must publish his particulars in at least four leading newspapers, of which two must be in regional languages. But 'private adoption agencies ... have resorted to just a farcical eyewash by publishing their self proclaimed names [presumably names given the child by the adoption agency itself--not necessarily the name by which the child is known to his parents] and self-estimated dates of birth without any photograph--that too only of a few children, in some less popular newspapers, off and on only. The [DSW] report says that the agencies do this, 'to avoid finding 'their natural parents'.'Commenting on this, a CWC member asks, 'How can parents recognise their offspring by such an absurd publication which does not even have the child's correct name?'"
  • Neglecting by numerous failings to follow mandated procedures, the expressly stated principle of the nationally binding Juvenile Justice Act in regard to lost children which states: "Every effort should be made to restore the child to his or her biological parents."

  • Violating the clearly stated, nationally binding regulations of the Central Adoption Resource Agency including the following:

    • Charging in excess of the allowable adoption fees as set forth in CARA guidelines.

    • Note: According to the Tehelka article, the maximum allowable domestic adoption fee is 10,000 rupees, and yet, according to the same article, the average amount a domestic Indian couple pays to adopt a child is 20,000 rupees.
      From the CARA guidelines themselves, I glean that the maximum amount allowable fee for a foreign adoption is $3500 (about 10 times the maximum charge for a domestic adoption). Yet, American adoption agencies often charge $5,000 -$7,000 for the "foreign fee"--the part of the adoption fee that goes to the Indian orphanage. Recently one American adoption agency stated through private correspondence to a potential client that their Indian fee was $11,000.

      Which brings us to another point in our long laundry list...

    • Preferring foreign adoptive parents to domestic Indian adoptive parents because they have the ability to pay more money for the child--despite the fact that Indian Supreme Court and CARA guidelines for adoption clearly state that Indians must be given preference over foreigners for the adoption of Indian children. And also, its domestic corollary...

    • Preferring middle class and wealthy Indian parents over poor ones because of their ability to pay fees beyond the legal limits.
That agencies must go to great lengths to secure adoptable children and once secured, that agencies are able to pass over some adoptive parents for others, points up the fact that, despite claims to the contrary, India is not overflowing with children who are legally free for adoption.

In fact, according to Tehelka article statistics, there are on average approximately 200 Indian parents on the adoption waiting list at each of the approximately 10 of the adoption agencies in Delhi.

As the middle class in India grows, the demand for adoptable children also grows. Where there is demand, there will be those who seek to make money by filling it.
"Had [the family in the anecdotal story]not have [traced him to the orphanage where he was themselves], says a senior DSW official, 'he would have been in [the orphanage] for months without the required effort to trace his family. The agency then would have secured a release order--mandatory to give a child in adoption--from the CWC, finally to give him to a total stranger in return for a huge sum of money.'"
Officially, he'd have been listed as one of the missing "untraceable" children. Children who disappear from their parents never to be heard of again.

In my mind I see an internationally adopted child struggling to come to terms with the fact that he was abandoned by his first parents--didn't they love me?--while on the other side of the world first parents are forever haunted by the memory of the child they loved and lost.

And somewhere else someone else is enjoying wealth and accolades for helping "orphans."

What a world we live in....and how little we understand it all...from our own side of the elephant...


Article: "Missing Children: The Business of Adoption,", July 1, 2007

Resources: CARA Guidelines Governing Adoption

The Juvenile Justice Act (India)