It is impossible to know exactly how many international adoptions are similarly tainted. The underlying problem is that the developing world does not have as many young children who need families as the West has families who want a young child. Many Westerners have heard that there is a massive worldwide orphan crisis involving upwards of 160 million children—and they have responded to this news with a generous desire to give needy children new homes. But the 160 million figure is deceptive; most of those children live with families, as Camryn Mosley once lived with her elder sister. More to the point, there's too much Western money in search of children. Adoption agencies send comparatively enormous sums money to desperately poor countries without adequate oversight. In country after country, that money has motivated unscrupulous people to "find" adoptable children through methods fair and foul.And as Graff notes, Sierra Leone in 1998 fell into both of these categories.
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[Graff gives two categories that tend to make international adoption particularly risky.] The first category: poor countries that suddenly become popular adoption sources, quickly doubling and tripling the numbers of children going abroad—an increase that outpaces what a given country's shaky regulatory system can effectively oversee. In the past 15 years, "sending" countries whose adoption numbers suddenly rose and whose adoptions were then found to be riddled with "irregularities," as the State Department diplomatically phrases it, have included Cambodia, Guatemala, Ethiopia, India, Liberia, the Marshall Islands, Nepal, Romania, Samoa, and Vietnam. Tens of thousands of children have come west or north from these locales—and during the peak period of adoption from each country, a significant number of those adoptions may have involved fraud, according to a number of government, journalistic, and NGO investigations listed on the pages linked above.
The second risky category involves countries where conflict or disaster has bred chaos. Such places tend to be doubly problematic, because at precisely the moment when Westerners' desire to save children from danger grows especially strong, the national government's ability to oversee and regulate adoption becomes especially weak.
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
E.J. Graff: The Makeni Children
From E.J. Graff, author of the excellent article, the Lie We Love, the story of 29 children from Makeni, Sierra Leone, who were adopted to the United States in 1998 without their parents' consent, in three blog entries at Slate's DoubleX blog, here, here and here. The Sierra Leone story isn't new (I've posted about it here and here and here), but E.J. Graff does her usual thorough job of piecing together pieces of the story from various sources. In the last blog post she asks the important question, How Flawed Is the International Adoption Process? She concludes: