Carney apparently located the parents of one child--Indian name, Subash--being raised in the Midwest and knocked on the family's door with photos, police and agency documents, and the story. Though the adoptive parents reluctantly listened, they are unwilling to open up the adoption to the boy's natural parents. The boy's mother, Sivagama, and father, Nageshwar Rao, do not want to uproot the child who has no memory of his native tongue or India itself. They realize is it probably too late for him to return to them. Carney says of the boy's (birth) mother:
After Subash disappeared [in 1999], Sivagama fell into a deep depression. Ten years later, she's still fragile, her eyes ringed by heavy dark circles. At the mention of her son's name, she breaks into tears, dabbing at the corners of her eyes with her sari.
"Why should we pay like this," she pleads, "for what criminals started?"
Indeed. They only want their son to know that he was not abandoned and to have some contact with him. Even though the connection was made many years later, the boy's father picked him out of a photo lineup immediately. But the American adopters--yes, in this case I am going to use that word even if some find it offensive--refuse. Nor will they submit to a DNA test. They will not tell Subash what is going on. He does not know that on the other side of the world from Wisconsin--I'm guessing here but the adoption agency in this country was located in Portage, Wisconsin--there are two other people who love him and with whom he is intimately connected by blood. They are not genetic strangers; they are his natural mother and father.
Subash's adopters--solid, Midwestern folk--are abominable people. They are the kind of adopters who make me crazy, who only care about getting a baby or a toddler at all costs. They are the kind of people who do not want to adopt children languishing here in the United States because they are too old or not cute enough, or have some noticeable problem. They want fresh blood. Cute toddlers. Kids without "issues."
I am a birth mother who relinquished a child to adoption and I hate these people who go overseas and take possession of children who were kidnapped off the streets in India, Guatemala, China, Nepal, wherever. In their ignorance, they are just as criminal as the person who actually steals the child. If you buy an art work on the international market, honest people demand a clear provenance of how the painting came to be available; those who buy without such documentation can have the art work reclaimed without compensation. Yet one can purchase a child, and that is that. Subash's kidnapper has admitted to nabbing the infant when he was left unattended for a few moments very close to his home, and selling him for 10,000 rupees ($236) to an orphanage that paid cash.
The Hague Convention that was so touted at the recent conference on international adoption at NYU, does nearly nothing to stop this type of child trafficking, Carney writes:
The Hague Convention on intercountry adoption, which addresses this type of criminal exploitation, was ratified by 50 countries—the United States signed on in 2007—but the pact is toothless, according to David Smolin, a law professor at Alabama's Samford University who has adopted two children from India. "The Hague itself has the weakness of relying on [the] sending countries to ensure that the child was properly relinquished," Smolin told me via email. "Receiving countries cannot afford to simply take the sending country's word."
Smolin is a hero to me. He is an adoptive father of two sisters from India who discovered that his children were placed in orphanages in Andhra Pradesh by their birth mother to receive an education—not to be sold into adoption. According to the story in Mother Jones, their illiterate mother was tricked into signing surrender papers and was later turned away when she tried to get the girls back. The girls, 9 and 11 at the time, had been coached to say their father was dead and their mother had given them up. After Smolin learned the truth from the girls once they learned English, he tracked down their mother, but six years had passed. The girls could not speak their native tongue anymore, and I believe he said they are now college students in America. (Smolin was also interviewed in the same segment on Fresh Air. I've tried to find it at the NPR site so we could link to it here, but have been unable. Help, please. If anyone can find it--it was last Thursday's program (3/12/09), please post the link below and I'll put it here.)
Smolin described the emotional meeting between the girls and their birth mother full of compassion for her, while Terry Gross, the interviewer, focused almost entirely the feelings of the adoptive parents. To her, the birth mother barely mattered. She apparently does not have the heart to comprehend that adoptive parents like the ones Carney wrote about are no better than kidnappers here in America who steal children because they can. Yet we give them no sympathy.
Smolin is now one of the nation's leading advocates of adoption reform. He says the Hague Convention is deeply flawed because it does not cap the fees paid by rich countries for children. In this case, ignorance is not enough of an excuse. Carney writes:
"If you don't sharply limit the money, all of the other regulations are doomed to failure," Smolin says.
Police, lawyers, and adoption advocates in India echo this sentiment. "If you didn't have to pay for a child, then this would all disappear," says Deputy Superintendent S. Shankar, the lead investigator in Subash's case (who requested that his full name not appear in print).
Yes, there are some children who need families and homes, but the demand has pushed the system way beyond need, since so much money changes hands, corruption and dealing in human trafficking--which is what this is--will not only continue, it will flourish.
As a final note, the Midwestern adopters above have two other children from India, most likely from the same agency in Portage, Wisconsin. The entire piece is worth your time, and you will also find at the site a follow-up interview with Carney about the latest developments, ie, more stone-walling from the adopters. There's also a place for comments, please add your own.
The reason for a possible name change of FirstMotherForum has to do with letting our views be heard by people fresh to the concept of reunion and adoption reform. They know the word: birth mother. First mother may be more politically correct, but it's not what the world uses. Google birth mother (with our without the space between birth and mother, and you'll find lots of ads for adoption agencies looking to buy "birth mother" product. Ya know, a baby.
One more note, apparently one of the people on the committee in South Dakota who received our letter was the prime sponsor of the bill, Rep. Nygaard. Email him your thanks at