Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Ethiopia Adoption: U.S. Agency Buys Child

From CBS News, a story, including video, of the adoption of three sisters from Ethiopia who were old enough to know that their father was paid money to release them for adoption:
Three children, sisters from Ethiopia are shown in a video - ages, you are told, 7, 4 and 6. Their mother is dead, their father dying of AIDS. A life of prostitution is all but assured - if not adopted - saved - by a loving American family.

It was just such a pitch that spoke to Katie and Calvin Bradshaw, reports CBS News chief investigative correspondent Armen Keteyian. They adopted all three girls through a U.S. agency, Christian World Adoption.

"Aside from the gender of the children, everything else proved to be a complete lie," said Katie.

In truth, the three sisters, Journee, Maree and Meya - were actually much older: 13, 6 and 11.

* * *

Adoptive families allege that many children brought to the U.S. are not even orphans, that prospective parents are misled about a child's health and background, that local families are recruited - and sometimes even paid - to give up their kids.

Which the Bradshaw sisters say is exactly what happened to them.

"Your dad was paid," Keteyian asked Meya.

"Yes," she said.

"From Christian World Adoption," Keteyian asked.

"Yeah," she replied.

"For you to be adopted?"


"You were sold?"

"Yeah," she said.
I've never been fond of the hyperbolic "adoption is slavery" meme, especially when applied to legal adoptions -- but what else is buying and selling human beings, if not slavery? Not just illegal adoption, but slavery.


Megan said...

I have to disagree with the term "slavery." What is described in this post is 100% wrong. The adoption agency is unethical and immoral. The situation is disgusting. However, the definition of slavery is:

▸ noun: the practice of owning slaves
▸ noun: work done under harsh conditions for little or no pay
▸ noun: the state of being under the control of another person

You could argue that last one might describe the situation, but that is rather true of all parent/child relationships (and yes, I recognize that the adoptive parents in this case are only parents to these three girls because of the agency's disgusting act of payment).

I think it does a disservice to actual slavery to call this slavery. Child trafficking, yes. Horrifically immoral, yes. A wrong that needs to be righted, yes. But it is not slavery.


Side note: I appreciate all thought and effort put into this blog. It is noticed and appreciated.

Anonymous said...

You should also post the agency's rebuttal to CBS's claims - http://www.cwa.org/cbsnews-response.htm

CBS jumped to some conclusions by placing blame on the agency (CWA). Always two sides to every story and unfortuntely (but not surprisingly) CBS told one side.

malinda said...

Megan, I agree with you, and have made the same arguments before. But it's hard to separate this transaction from the slave markets when you look at that child and hear her say, "Yeah, I was sold."

Amazingly sad.

malinda said...

Anon, actually, there isn't any requirement that I post CWA's rebuttal. You're free to do so -- that's what the comments are all about!

Anonymous said...

Very sad that the other side of the story was not told. The government of Ethiopia approves children for adoption AND assigns them an age, not the adoption agency. CBS is at fault for not airing the adoption agency's side of the story.

(an adoptive parent)

malinda said...

It's hard to offer the agency's side of the story when they refuse to be interviewed. Their attorney spoke for them and said virtually nothing because of pending lawsuits against the agency. If the agency wanted to tell their story on camera, they had every opportunity to do so. It isn't journalism to allow they to post a press release unchallenged, and to refuse any interview where they might be challenged.

Megan said...

I fully agree that simply posting a press release from a company/agency, etc is not journalism. That is part of the problem with the state of journalism today: media simply regurgitating the press releases issued by politicians or companies.

Anonymous said...

CWA didn't refuse to be interviewed, CBS just refused to air it:

"In an effort to address each of these allegations, CWA agreed to an in-depth interview with CBS reporter Armen Keteyian. During the course of this interview, lasting well over an hour, CBS was provided facts and documents which discredit the allegations made against CWA. Instead of allowing its viewers to consider the position of both parties, CBS chose to exclude every piece of information provided by CWA during its lengthy interview."

malinda said...

So you're saying that when CBS says, "Citing ongoing litigation, the Hardings declined to speak with CBS News at their offices in Charleston, South Carolina," that CBS lied.

Your authority for that from an impartial source?

Anonymous said...

The allegations of "buying children" just make no sense. There are 100s of thousands of orphans in Ethiopia. One doesnt have to buy them, or "harvest" them. And certainly, "buying" an older sibling group, the most difficult to place, just doesn't make sense. While it makes good "news" that doesn't make it true.

And the fact that they children in question have relatives, or even one parent, is kind of irrelevant. The Ethiopian government determines orphan status for adoption. And then the US Government determines orphan status for immigration.

There is more to the story than was aired by CBS.

Anonymous said...

Re: "real journalism"
Real Journalism would require doing some actual investigating and understanding the role of agencies vis a vis the government in the adoption process in Ethiopia. Rather than taking the word of a confused and bitter (understandably) 11 year old. Quotes from a 11 year old make good video but they are hardly the golden source. Her world turned upside down. She was undoubtedly lied to by her father. But that may not be the fault of the agency.

malinda said...

Yes, like in every international adoption, the sending country makes a determination that the child is an orphan. That doesn't give the agency a pass, though. Agencies owe a fiduciary duty to the adoptive parents they are supposed to be serving. Part of that duty is to make sure the child is indeed an orphan. Just saying passively, the government said so, would be quite inadequate to satisfy that fiduciary duty -- ESPECIALLY when the agency recruits children from the generay population instead of seeking to place already "orphaned" children in Ethiopian orphanages.

Sandy said...

(Adoptive mom)

"Rather than taking the word of a confused and bitter (understandably) 11 year old."

And adoptees who speak out about the down side of adoption are 'angry' and had bad parents cuz there is no loss in adoption.

Adoption agencies are supposed to be doing this in the best interests of the child - not find children for parents.

Anonymous said...

In general, child recruitment itself is a sign that the adoption process may be corrupting. It's not a simple equation of "we have hundreds of thousands of orphans; therefore there is no need to sell or buy a child." There are thousands of girl orphans in China, as well, many of whom will not get into any adoption program but that does not stop the incentive programs or outright child-buying at times.

AdoptAuthor said...

Yes, Jessica...there are hundreds of thousands of children in orphanages.

First, 90% of them cannot be adopted because they have at least one parent. See: www.conducivemag.com/index.

Second, the vast majority of them are over five years of age and the children being stolen for adoption are under five.

As for the slavery comparison,some transnational adoptees are making the comparison: http://familypreservation.

These adopted persons lived it. It is their experience and I for one respect their right to use the language they feel best expresses their experience - dictionary be damned! Slavery is defined as the buying and selling of human beings. That works for me. Slavery separates people from their families and changes their names to that of their owners.

Sometimes we need to harsh words to bring attention to atrocities. Child trafficking goes on every day all over the world and we turn a blind eye to is. We tsk tsk at individual cases when they are brought to light but do nothing to get tot he root of the profiteering on adoption and stop the insanity.

And what of the three girls in this case that we tsk tsk over? Are they being returned to their middle class father and extended family???

They were illegally procured and should be returned!

AdoptAuthor said...

Karen Finley wrote in The Huffington Post of Madonna’s adoption, “Imagine if Madonna’s father could not have supported his children after the death of the mother? And a wealthy African family appeared in Detroit with entourage and took away little five-year-old Ciccone to adopt? Americans, white Americans would go nuts….This Malawi child is leaving his heritage, his people, his language, his family. Yes, he is poor. But now he is also impoverished.…Sounds like colonialism to me….The image of a white, powerful, rich woman and her entourage landing in Africa and selecting a black boy brings America’s history of slavery and the middle passage to mind.”

From "The Stork Market" Page 58:

Reverend Ken Hutcherson of the Antioch Bible Church is among those concerned with racial issues in private adoption, questioning the difference between those who “sell by supply and demand” and slavery. Hutcherson says, “When a couple seeking to adopt a white baby is charged $35,000 and a couple seeking a black baby is charged $4,000,” the image that comes to mind is of “a practice that was outlawed in America nearly one hundred and fifty years ago—the buying and selling of human beings.”

Further, as bloggers I do not believe we have any obligation to "balance" our opinions by giving "equal time" to rebuttals. Blogs are journals - they are opinion pieces not hard news. They open discussions, like this one. People who read them know that.

Megan said...

While I agree with the tone of this post, with the general feelings of the author, and with the general feelings of those who recognize that this is a horrific situation, I just can't not comment.

Slavery is NOT defined as the buying and selling of people. Many people are in slavery who were never bought. If someone is purchased for the purposes of slavery, but is then set free, is that person in slavery? No. That person is a victim of human trafficking, but is not a slave.

Here are two more dictionary definitions of slavery from another source:

slav⋅er⋅y  [sley-vuh-ree, sleyv-ree] Show IPA
1. the condition of a slave; bondage.
2. the keeping of slaves as a practice or institution.
3. a state of subjection like that of a slave: He was kept in slavery by drugs.
4. severe toil; drudgery.

slav·er·y (slā'və-rē, slāv'rē)
n. pl. slav·er·ies
1. The state of one bound in servitude as the property of a slaveholder or household.

2. The practice of owning slaves.
a. A mode of production in which slaves constitute the principal work force.
b. The condition of being subject or addicted to a specified influence.

3. A condition of hard work and subjection: wage slavery.


I *completely* respect the rights of any adoptee to say they feel as if they were sold into slavery. I am not questioning those feelings. I even agree you can say that it feels like slavery to you. But you can't say the definition of a word is something it is not. "Dictionary be damned!" is fair, but when you say, "Slavery is defined as the buying and selling of human beings," that is simply factually incorrect.

These three girls are the victims of, among many other atrocities, child/human trafficking. You could even argue kidnapping. But I just don't see how the word slavery can be used in a strict sense of the definition of the word.

Cathy said...

If we choose to keep using terms such as "unethical" or "corrupt" then trafficking for purpose of adoption will not be recognized for what it is in the eyes of the law.
Slavery, trafficking, kidnapping.. say it clearly as it is because for now the criminals know they can get away with what they are doing.
Your blog says it all like it is!

Megan said...

For me, when I'm weighing the merits of each side of an argument, the accuracy of the language and facts used matter. When I hear someone using language that is either false (in this case, "slavery" is a factually incorrect) or exaggerated, my first inclination is to say, "OK, that side of the argument must not be strong enough because the arguer is resorting to saying something false."

I am only continuing to press my point that the use of the term "slavery" in this situation is incorrect precisely because I truly do think what has happened to these three girls is unquestionably wrong and needs to be righted, and prevented from happening in the future. And I want those who question whether it's wrong (some of the previous commenters, for example, who seem to feel it was just a mistake and the agency is innocent in this process) to see that this is a situation that needs to be corrected and prevented from happening in the future. It is rare that someone who starts off on the side of "well, the government declared these children orphans and the agency said they did nothing wrong" to flip because someone yells, "SLAVERY!" In my experience, people don't start to consider the merits of the other side because of strong (factually incorrect) language. They do so because the facts presented are compelling, or because they realize the side they fell on to begin with is factually inaccurate.

What has been done to and taken away from these girls is just as horrific as slavery, in my opinion. To say we have to use a word that isn't accurate in order to make people hear us is wrong. Then people hear us using inaccuracies, as well as presenting an unstated argument of, "Our argument isn't strong enough on its own merits so we're going to start using strong, factually incorrect words."

Summary: you can call a duck a dog all you want. It's still a duck. You can call this slavery all you want, but it's not.

Again, great post. I agree with everything in it ... except for the use of the term slavery.

Anonymous said...

Actually, AdoptAuthor, whether the child has parents or not may not affect his or her status as adoptable. Anon is right about that. Children with one or two living parents are adopted. All our kids from China have parents, after all.

Also, in the last reported interrupted adoption from Ethiopia (PAPS refused the adoption because of corruption) the original families did not accept the children back. You and others keep talking about children being returned to their families as though this were the perfect resolution, an undoing of a bad deed. This too is another example of zero-sum thinking. Adoption can't just be challenging or flawed--it has to be slavery or the latest--rape.

And all natural parents would welcome their kids back.