Stolen Children: Illegal Practices in Intercountry Adoption
Adoption today has become a business that sells children as commodities with a disregard for children’s human rights and with the moral indignity of selling children to meet the need of some adults to parent and others merely to make money. ~ Kenneth J. Herrmann, Jr., Associate Professor, Department of Social Work, SUNY
With the adoption industry often suffering from a shortage of healthy newborns and a surplus of parents eager to adopt, the industry is rife with opportunities for illegal activity. The global community is becoming aware of and concerned with ways to end illicit practices in intercountry adoption. Although adoption often benefits birth families, adoptive families, and children, increasing cases of illegal practices in intercountry adoptions have significantly harmed families and children. Countries that have undergone violent conflict, like Cambodia, Vietnam, Sierra Leone, and Guatemala, have become breeding grounds for improper adoption practices including child buying, coercion of birth parents, and even kidnapping.
Norma Cruz is a Guatemalan grassroots activist and recipient of the U.S. Department of State’s designation “2009 International Woman of Courage.” Ms. Cruz has become a world renowned human rights defender through her tireless campaign to document cases of violence against women in Guatemala, promote justice for women, and call for an end to illicit adoption. Ms. Cruz tells the stories of Guatemalan parents who have lost their children to illicit intercountry adoption. She describes the advocacy efforts of her organization, Fundación Sobrevivientes (Survivors Foundation), on behalf of the mothers whose children have been taken in an illegal lucrative supply chain for international adoptions. In Spain, a long history of scandalous adoption procedures is rooted in its political history. Newborn babies were stolen from their mothers who were told that their babies were stillborn. The victims were invariably opponents of the fascist Franco regime, while political supporters were allowed to buy or “adopt” the healthy infants.
The abduction of children is a continuing problem in China, where a lingering preference for boys coupled with strict controls on the number of births have helped create a lucrative black market in children. Reports that family planning officials stole children, beat parents, forcibly sterilized mothers and destroyed families’ homes sowed a quiet terror through parts of Longhui County in the first half of the past decade. (Excerpt, NY Times 8/5/11): Yang Libing discovered the loss of his daughter during his monthly telephone call home from a pay phone on a Shenzhen street. “Is she behaving?” he asked cheerily. The answer, he said, made him physically sick. After racing home, he said, he begged family planning officials to let him pay the fine. They said it was too late. When he protested, he said, a group of more than 10 men beat him. Afterward, the office director offered a compromise: although their daughter was gone forever, the Yangs would be allowed to conceive two more children.
“I can’t even describe my hatred of those family planning officials,” Mr. Yang said. “I hate them to my bones. I wonder if they are parents, too. Why don’t they treat us as humans?” Asked whether he was still searching for his daughter, he replied: “Of course! This is not a chicken. This is not a dog. This is my child.”
The Child Exchange: Inside America’s Underground Market for Adopted Children, by Megan Twohey for Reuters Investigates, September 9, 2013. Highly recommended series of in depth reporting.
Inside Nigeria’s Baby Factories, Expressen, December 28, 2013
Finding Fernanda: Two Mothers, One Child, and a Cross-Border Search for Truth, by Erin Siegal. The dramatic story of how an American housewife discovered that the Guatemalan child she was about to adopt had been stolen from her birth mother.
Adoption as Human Trafficking, The Daily Iowan, 3/25/08
- A helpful guide to international adoption courtesy of the State Department: http://adoption.state.gov/content/pdf/Intercountry_Adoption_From_A_Z.pdf
- More information about international adoption from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service: http://www.uscis.gov/adoption