If it is so hard domestically, can you imagine how false promises might affect consent in international adoption, where there is no shared language, no shared culture, often no shared understanding of what adoption is?
In a 2004 article in the Journal of Law and Family Studies, Jini Roby highlights the problem of different cultural understandings of adoption:
The beautiful young woman was wiping tears from her cheeks as she struggled to tell her story. She paused many times, often overcome with sorrow, and frequently searching for the right English words. I waited for her, knowing that attentive and empathic silence on my part was not uncomfortable for her in context of her culture. She looked to be in her early twenties, but she had already given birth to three children and relinquished the older two.That lack of understanding of what adoption meant also appeared in Madonna's adoption of her son David Banda from Malawi:
At her home in Majuro, Marshall Islands, a small Pacific country with a population
of just over 50,000, she had been solicited to bring her children to the U.S. to place them with an adoptive family. When she and her husband divorced, she had been left without means to support the children. A local adoption ‘facilitator’ (child finder) had visited her, and urged adoption. To make things easier, she would travel to the U.S. with her children and relinquish them on U.S. soil; thus the adoptive family would avoid the complicated process of international adoptions and she would have a trip to the U.S. She was promised on-going help and continuing contact with her children, which did not strike her as anything unusual. Had she known that adoption meant something entirelydifferent in the Western world from her own knowledge of adoption, she may not have considered it an option. In fact, the notion that a mother can sign away her relationship with her children had never been a concept in her culture. . . . [I]n the Marshallese culture adoption only bridged two families together to bring up children.
Mr Banda [the birth father], who is illiterate, said he had no idea what the High Court adoption papers he signed had meant and he was "just realising" what the procedure entailed.False promises of continuing contact and return were at the center of the Samoan adoption scandals that led to criminal convictions for adoption agency personnel:
He said: "I was never told that adoption means that David will no longer be my son... If I was told this, I would not have allowed theadoption.
"I want more clarification on the adoption. I would prefer that David goes back to the orphanage where I can see him any time I want, rather than send him away for good."
Mr Banda, 32, said he thought Madonna would just "educate and take care of our son."
But he still thanked Madonna for rescuing David "from poverty and disease."
"We pray for the good Lord to keep blessing her for her benevolence," he told Associated Press news agency.
Mr Banda's cousin, Wiseman Zimba, told AP: "Our understanding as family is that David is still part and parcel of our clan. After the good woman nurtures and educates him, he will return back."
Same story in Ethiopia:
Samoan families accuse Utah-based adoption agency Focus on Children of tricking them into giving up their children for permanent adoptions. Similar tactics were described in interviews with six Samoan families, all but one members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Recruiters exploited their religious faith and dreams for their children, they said, selling adoption as a "program" that would send youngsters to live with an American Mormon family and get a good education before returning home at 18.
Parents are often unaware of what they're doing when they offer their children for adoption. They're led to believe they'll hear from their children regularly and their children will be well educated and eventually bring the family wealth.And as Brian Stuy recently reported, the same promises are made in China, when there is hardly a chance that birth families and children could be reunited:
But in reality, the parents and families never hear from their children and receive little information about where their children have gone. We filmed a room full of grieving mothers who gave their children for adoption after agencies promised they'd be given regular updates.
How cruel these promises are -- those making them have to know that they will not be carried out. If we can't guarantee that the promises will be fulfilled in domestic adoption, we certainly know that there's no chance of fulfillment across oceans and miles and language differences and cultural disconnects. It's hard to imagine consent being voluntary in the face of these false promises and cultural misunderstandings.
While much is spoken about the financial payments involved in many orphanage programs, a lessor-known program involves no money, but a simple promise: That a
child will be provided a rich family to raise it, that the child will be given a great education, resulting in a successful life. This promise, often combined with promises of a "returning child", is a very strong incentive for any loving parent, but especially a parent that views such "blessings" as impossible to provide themselves.