Sunday, June 6, 2010

Another "What Would You Do" Story

With the Sierra Leone case, I asked what you would do as an adoptive parent.  Here's another adoption corruption case, Mother fights to meet son 11 years after his kidnap -- and another opportunity for adoptive parents to ask themselves, "What would you do?"
An Indian mother faces a heart-wrenching court battle in Holland to gain access to her 12-year-old son, whom she alleges was kidnapped as a baby then adopted by an unsuspecting Dutch couple.

Nagarani Kathirvel’s nightmare began in 1999 on a hot October night in the coastal city of Chennai, when she and her husband decided to sleep outside their slum hut with their three young children to keep cool.

She was awoken by an uneasy maternal instinct that something was wrong. There was no electricity and in the pitch black she could feel that her youngest child, 18-month-old Sateesh, had disappeared from the sleeping mat.

The family searched frantically for the baby, hoping he had simply crawled off. But Sateesh could not be found. For years Kathirvel kept her son’s name on the family ration card, believing that one day he would return.

Then in May 2005, there was a breakthrough: the local police busted a child-trafficking ring linked to an adoption agency, Malaysian Social Services, that had a licence to offer children for adoption abroad.

* * *

India’s Central Bureau for Investigation took up the case, as did Against Child Trafficking (ACT), an organisation registered in Holland. It is feared there may be several similar stories, as Malaysian Social Services arranged more than 350 overseas adoptions.

Arun Dohle, a German working for ACT, broke the news to Sateesh’s adoptive Dutch parents that the child they thought they had adopted legally 11 years ago may have been stolen from his family.

* * *

At first, the Bissesars [adoptive parents who are ethnic Hindus] were co-operative and sent a picture of the boy to his biological parents. But after advice from a Dutch adoption expert they became fearful that the child could be taken away, and refused to take a DNA test.
As an adoptive parent, I don't ask the question, "What would you do," lightly.  This is, in many ways, the adoptive parents' nightmare, that our child is not legal ours and in fact may legally belong to another.  That our attempt at the most ethical adoption fails all ethical standards.  That ideals of fairness and justice favor the return of our child to her first family.  That we were complicit, however unknowingly, in a corrupt adoption.  That our family may be ripped apart just as that first family was ripped apart.

But I also think its important for adoptive families to consider another perspective -- if we know, like in this case, how do we tell our child that we refused contact?  That is more likely to rip our family apart than a legal return of the child.  Yes, a child might be frightened about being returned, as this child is: "Rohit, who speaks only Dutch, is also afraid of being forced to return. An initial court hearing earlier this year concluded that: 'The child is at the moment not prepared to co-operate with DNA testing ... He fears that his biological parents can claim him back at a certain point.'”  But that fear can be addressed, in part by explaining the truth -- that the biological family isn't asking for the child back:

Last week Kathirvel said that she was fighting for a DNA test and to at least have visiting rights and contact with her son. “I don’t feel any anger towards the Dutch couple,” she said. “But I would like him to know both sets of parents, and I want to tell him that his biological parents did everything to find him.”
I'm always touched by these cases where, despite their loss, the biological family is merely asking for contact, for information.  They are parents of this child, just like we are, and they don't want to do anything to hurt the child.  They seem quite aware of the trauma associated with a return at this late date -- they ask to share, not possess.

Can't we match their graciousness?  Ask yourself not only what you would do as an adoptive parent, but what would you do in the shoes of these parents?


Anonymous said...

I find it's just so damned typical for someone (usually an adoption professional) to start screeching about the possibility of "returning" the child when all the cases we've heard of feature first parents who NEVER ask for that. When this happens, I think everyone should take a deep breath and figure out what to do together. Start by opening up the communication, write letters (or e-mails of the family has technology), hire a translator, and begin arranging for visits, maybe as a family first and then for the child on his own as he reaches teen years. If there are siblings, invite them to visit and pay for the trip.

Expensive, yes. But there is no ethical alternative.

Chennai is where Subash was stolen from--the one written about by Scott Carney in Mother Jones. The a-parents shut down all communication in that case.

Von said...

There are only ethical and humane considerations in these cases...there must be supported contact for the child to have contact with his family, adopters should not be allowed to shut down contact, all must be done in the best interests of the child.
Adopters can ensure that these cases are publicised and that unethical profiteering stops.Any agency involve should be shut down immediately.

Anonymous said...

ITA. I think it shoud be NOT an option to refuse communication unless you submit to a DNA test and the child turns out not to be that child. The parents in the Subash case simply didn't leave the channel open long enough to get that far.

Anonymous said...

It's all about ownership to a lot of adoptive parents. Many adopt from oversees because they don't want the child's natural family to EVER be found.

I agree with Von and even think it should be taken a lot further: All children who are adopted should be given DNA tests. Natural parents of children given up for adoption or thought to be stolen for adoption should have DNA tests, as well. Those test results should be stored and run through an international data base built to dismantle the illegal flesh trade.

Mikenjane said...

The child is now an adolescent. Why not ask the child what he desires? If it is too much for the child to handle, I would hold off on contact with the supposed birth family until the child is ready.

Not all birth families who show up and claim a relationship are legit. (Remember the Korean adoptee in the winter olympics who had so many different candidates step forward claiming to be his birth parents?) Some want more than contact, perhaps desiring economic support (or your child may wish to offer economic support -- mine would!) It is really important to put the child's welfare first.

I would never deny contact with my daughters' birth families, but I would want my daughters' to be prepared and ready to handle the complexities that such contact would bring. This may take a few years or more.