' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: Will NPR Report the Truth about International Adoption? It's legitimated kidnapping in many poor countries

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Will NPR Report the Truth about International Adoption? It's legitimated kidnapping in many poor countries

Although Neal Conan introduced Talk of the Nation on Tuesday, April 7 by referring to the brouhaha over Madonna’s attempted adoption of a little Malawi girl, the program, “Why Did You Opt for International Adoption” was simply an international adoption promo piece.

The program perpetuated the myth that millions of infants and toddlers have been abandoned at train stations, along roads, or church doorsteps and are living in crowded orphanages waiting for generous American to take them home, and that the children thus blessed live happily ever-after in middle-class America.

Conan interviewed Susan Soon-Keum Cox, Vice-President of Public Policy and External Affairs for Holt International of Eugene, Oregon, the largest US agency specializing in arranging adoptions of children from poor countries, and Isolde Motley, adoptive mother of two IA children, former editor at Time, and co-author with Susan Caughman, editor of Adoptive Families, of You Can Adopt: An Adoptive Families Guide to be released in July 2009.

Cox and Motley reminded me of the old dope peddler in the Tom Lehrer song, “Doing Well by Doing Good.” Thus Cox, (who is well-paid from the money Holt rakes in pedaling foreign children for $35,000 a pop) and Motley (profiting from her status as an adoptive mother) told listeners that adopting a foreign child had the twin benefits of “building a family” and “saving a child.”

To her credit, Cox did dispel the notion expressed by some callers that adopting internationally kept those pesky bio-families out of the picture. She noted that many foreign-born adoptees including herself search for their original families and that some agencies encourage ongoing contact with birth families. Cox also stressed that prospective adoptive parents adopting a child of a different race will face difficult cultural and racial issues as the child grows up.

Interestingly, Motley and the adoptive parents who called in had biological children as well as adopted ones. Cox noted that infertility was only one of the reasons people adopted from abroad and adoption was contagious (my word). Once someone adopts, Cox said, their friends often decide to do the same. (Keeping up with the Joneses I would call it-- Lorraine adds that she has seen it spread among the Hamptons like …well, not quite like wildfire, but spread just the same.)

Neal Conan approached the topic much as he might have in discussing whether to buy an American or foreign-made car. He and his guests omitted any consideration of the parties most affected: parents who lost children to adoption and the children themselves. Indeed this may be a habit of NPR – when discussing adoption. A recent program on open records did not include a single adoptee; instead adoptive father and head of the Evan B. Donaldson Institute, Adam Pertman, spoke on their behalf. Maybe they would like to have us on as bigtime bloggers speaking on behalf of – adoptive parents.

I’m emailing TOTN suggesting it does another program on international adoption, as it claims that its coverage “must be fair, unbiased, accurate, complete and honest”. A good place to start to reach that goal would be to interview the authors of two recent articles exposing the realities behind the international adoption myth: “The Lie We Love” (Foreign Policy November/December 2008) by E. J. Graff and “Red Thread or Slender Reed: Deconstructing Prof. Bartholet’s Mythology of International Adoption” (Buffalo Human Rights Law Review, 2008) by Johanna Oreskovic and Trish Maskew. Graff is a senior researcher directing the Gender & Justice Project at Brandeis University's Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism. Oreskovic and Maskew are attorneys. Maskew is also the founder and former president of Ethica, Inc, a non-profit dedicated to adoption reform. (See side panel here –Ethica is raising money to support Mercy in Malawi; let’s all chip in.)

Among their findings that we have reported here and here previously is that babies in many, if not all, countries are systematically bought, coerced, and stolen away – i.e., kidnapped--from their birth families. Nearly half of the 40 countries that are the top sources for adoption have at least temporarily halted adoptions or have prevented agencies from sending children to the US. Yet though this will prevent more children from being kidnapped, this policy was soundly criticized by Cox and Motley on the NPR program.

In reality, there are very few young, healthy orphans available for adoption around the world. Orphans are rarely healthy babies; healthy babies are rarely orphaned. Ninety-five percent of orphans are older than five, living with extended families that need financial support. The supply of adoptable babies rises to meet demand and disappears when Western cash is no longer available.

To add grist to the mill, a 2008 report from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) unequivocally states that the intercountry adoption business in Nepal has created a culture of child abuse including the abduction, trafficking and sale of children.

Of the some 15,000 children in orphanages or children’s homes, a significant number of admissions in these homes are a result of fraud, coercion or malpractice, according to the 62-page report. Only four out of every 100 children adopted in Nepal are adopted by a Nepali family and many children put up for adoption are not orphaned but are separated from their families.

Let’s hope NPR does a report on that.


  1. Chinese Hunger for Sons Fuels Boys’ Abductions NY Times April 5

    In this article there is this:

    "Mr. Peng, who started an ad hoc group for parents of stolen children, said some of the girls were sold to orphanages. They are the lucky ones who often end up in the United States or Europe after adoptive parents pay fees to orphanages that average $5,000."

    I will not offer my own editorial comment regarding this statement because all IA parents adopted children that had no family and were definitely abandoned in orphanages, right?

  2. I heard this radio show and was very angered by it.

    They kept requesting those who had adopted or were thinking about adopting to call in. The idea that human beings were the commodity in question seemed completely irrelevant to the hosts and guests.

    To me it would was like having a show on race relations and inviting only rich white people to speak about it.

  3. But I heard from a friend that people were calling in to NPR who were trying to give the truth about international adoption, that it is largely corrupt. is that true?

    And yep, I saw that story in the Sunday Times...I mentioned it to the grandfather of an adopted Chinese girl whose American mother took her to Shanghai to live...and he said: Well, she is too old to abduct.

    He thought I was talking about someone kidnapping the teenager, when I was pointing out that girls (such as his granddaughter) were stolen and then prospective adoptive parents were told they were abandoned. He is 86, and I just did not bother trying to explain what I meant.

    But I do believe a lot of the girls would have lnaguished or died in Chinese orphanages, and I am thankful there are mothers such as Osolomama.

    Who has a sense of humor about her blogging name. As well as a lot of other good qualities.

  4. Wouldn't it be great to get more publicity on the down side of international adoption out there? At least show it is complicated issue? NPR dropped the ball on this one.

    Off topic, but I am in a good mood today because it is my son's birthday and he answered my email and thanked me for his gifts:-)Also promised more pictures of the hiking weekend they are taking. Haven't heard from him for a while, so I feel relieved and blessed.

  5. Shows like this don't even qualify as news anymore. Adoptive parents travel around the world in search of kids blah blah blah. I still see news articles like this pop up now and then and I think, what the hey. Is there a person on the planet who doesn't know that?

    Joy, I believe you are right about an unconscious tendency on the part of some international a-parents to refer to their children property. Let me give you an example. The name of the prefecture my daughter was born in is Fuzhou. All the girls from this prefecture carry the surname Fu. Some people actually refer to these children as "my Fu" and "your Fu," as in "Your Fu is so cute--she reminds me of my Fu when she was 2." I betcha you if some a-parent wanders by here they'll slap me down for this but whenever I hear that I want to scream. To me, using the word this way betrays disrespect for the place, the events, and the people. You may as well substitute "Pommy" or "Pekepoo"--it would have exactly the same effect. that's why I don't like the event called LaLaFuLooza either. It's not as though this history is so joyous, after all.

    Lorraine, thank you. Many a-parents are joining lists that talk openly about corruption and trafficking. Many are also searching. More and more will come on board. Many do not fit the stereotype. I think the bottom line for most people is that they wish to be respected as parents. Once the respect is there, I believe you can lead people into the darkest parts of adoption and achieve greater understanding. But nobody likes to be humiliated.

  6. Oh, Osolomama...can you suggest a blog or two besides yours?

    I know we have other adoptive mothers who read us, and I've been to some of their sites, and I know they are doing the best they can. I think our anger and disrespect comes from the way we feel we have been treated by our social workers,the agency, many many adoptive parents who would rather see us disappear, and society in general.

    have a good evening...
    it's at least warmish where I am.

  7. Let me clarify that I wasn't saying that came from you. But it's a tone out there. Jeez, I see adoptees bashing their first moms too by spells. ?????

    I don't read most a-parent blogs and what I was referring to were subscribe-lists a-parents are now quietly joining to get the facts and not the sugar. I'm on a China birthparents search list and the topic comes up regularly without people vaporizing.

    I think I've aready mentioned


    Brian adopted his first child from China the same year I did. His work in uncovering trafficking and corruption and doing searches of original parents is well-known and pisses some a-parents and agencies off, always a good sign.

    Dawn Friedman is also great (domestic open adoption):


    If I come across anything else, I will let you know.

  8. Lorraine, here's a link, not to an adoption blog of any ilk, but to a general "mom" blog.
    I mention it because it shows that non-adoptive parents can also be interested in the subject of adoption and they too grapple with its complexities.
    I've only just found it, but as so far it seems to be thoughtful, civil and unsucky. The bloggers appear to be open to new perspectives.
    I found this entry (see also part 1) particularly interesting

    Though I think the question "Is somebody else influencing my decision?" could just as importantly be asked about relinquishment.
    However, that was not the context, so fair enough.

  9. "Maybe they would like to have us on as bigtime bloggers speaking on behalf of – adoptive parents."

    This I surely would do! At a time when my adoptive mother and I need to work on repairing our relationship before she dies (age 93), I find myself struggling to accept her adamant claim that "I still believe that adoptees should never be told the truth!"

    On the flip side, she'll grope for compromise on the birth certificate issue. She looked sad when I said, "No, a birth certificate joining the birth parents with the adoptive parents named on a birth-adoption certificate would not work." I saw her sadness that I wouldn't compromise on adoptees' birth certificates. Has Mom acknowledged that I was, in fact, kidnapped from my existing family of five children and our father, just so that she and my adoptive father could have the joy of raising their precious daughter? I was willingly kept apart from my siblings for the first 18 years of my life. My adoptive parents knew my first family lived less than five miles from us.

    I grew up alone, an only child. Yeah, I'll speak on the radio on behalf of my adoptive parents --- they got their happy little family --- at the expense of their own adoptee's feelings and civil rights.

  10. Kippa, good blog.

    Also Third Mom.


  11. Actual comment on the show blog. Why someone chose international adoption:

    "We did not want a birth parent knocking at our door on our daughter's 6th birthday all of a sudden out of prison or cleaned up and wanting a relationship with her."


  12. You understand why we have trouble with a lot of aparents?

    this is their attitude. See book I wrote about...The Brotherhood of Joseph...said he didn;t want his wife saving a chair at their kid's recital....

  13. Oh yeah, that's exactly what I was thinking.



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