International Adoption: A Big Fix Brings Dramatic Decline:
An International Adoption Story: Hannah, From Russia:
When Silvia Sebac’s birth mother made the five-hour bus ride through the mountainous countryside to leave her at an orphanage in Guatemala City, the infant had every prospect of an international adoption – of captivating adoptive parents from the US or Europe.
That was four years ago, when the adoption business was booming and people from rich countries were traveling the globe from China and South Korea to Russia and Ethiopia to find a child to complete their families. At the time Silvia arrived in Guatemala City, her country was giving up nearly 5,000 children annually – 1 in every 100 births.
Adoption was an estimated $100 million industry that attracted thousands of international families willing to pay more than $30,000 to lawyers and agencies and to the capital city’s towering hotels that dedicated entire floors to adoptive parents, catering to their every diaper and baby cream need.
But by the time her two-year wait to be declared legally abandoned was up, dark-eyed Silvia had no takers. Intercountry adoptions had begun to plummet.
In 1999, Monitor readers met Hannah, a 3-year-old Russian girl adopted by American parents. A Monitor team – Marjorie Kehe and Melanie Stetson Freeman – chronicled Hannah’s journey from a stark orphanage near Moscow to a new life in Massachusetts. In 2003, they updated her story, finding the 6-year-old negotiating the traumas of adjustment as a “giver” and “a ray of sunshine.” They return now to see the 13-year-old Hannah.International Adoption Delayed for a Haitian Orphan:
Pierre Payen, Haiti --Chris and Leslie Rollings knew, when they took tiny 15-day-old Olivia home from Heartline Ministries orphanage in January 2008, that it could take years to be legally recognized as her adoptive parents. Having run a non-governmental agency for several years already in this rural seaside village, Mr. Rollings was familiar with navigating the Haitian bureaucracy.The Monitor's View: Adapting to Foreign Adoptions:
The Canadian couple vowed to go the course without offering the traditional palm-greasing “incentives” key to speeding any official process. They also vowed not to go on a vacation abroad until Olivia had the documents to come too.
It has been two years, and they’re still waiting to take that vacation.
And it promises to be even longer because of the effects of the earthquake that rumbled through this poor nation Jan. 12.
Olivia – a bouncy 2-year-old with a penchant for the sweet bananas growing in her yard – doesn’t seem to be lacking anything, except the Haitian government’s approval of her adoption.
The plight of orphans after a tragedy in a poor nation can evoke an ardent desire in people from rich countries to give them a home. Yet the arrest in Haiti of a group of Americans trying to whisk 33 orphans out of that country just days after the Jan. 12 earthquake shows how that desire to adopt requires safe and legal channels.
A need for safeguards became obvious soon after intercountry adoption became popular six decades ago, when Henry and Bertha Holt started a flow of orphans from war-torn Korea to the United States. Steadily over the years, rules have been put in place, most notably with the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption. Simply confirming that a child is orphaned or abandoned, for example, can’t be left to those with a stake in an adoption. And the process needs to be free of profitmaking influence.
Still, that 1993 treaty is accepted by fewer than half of the world’s countries. Fortunately the US – which is by far the largest recipient of foreign adoptees – joined the pact in 2008. This dominant role forces it to accept extra responsibility to
enforce the rules – as it recently did after eyeing shady adoptions in Vietnam.
That’s why the State Department needs to have its adoption-watchdog abilities beefed up. A bill in Congress would do just that.