' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: Babies "confiscated" in China and sold as orphans to the western market

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Babies "confiscated" in China and sold as orphans to the western market

China, long a provider of babies for the burgeoning market in the U.S., has cracked under the pressure to keep up with the demand. Babies have been "confiscated" from poor families and sold as orphans for $3,000 apiece on the international market.

Though China maintains its one-child-only policy in an effort to halt population growth, rural families were allowed to have two, if the first child was a girl. But a third child? Then the poor farmers were required to pay a $3,000 fee, a charge completely out of reach for them. If you could not pay, you were forced to turn over the baby, which was then sold for $3,000, with the local orphanage and the corrupt local authorities splitting the fee.

Here's a snippet of the story you'll find here:

By Hyo-Jin Paik
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

BEIJING, China– An investigation by a Chinese newspaper found that about 80 baby girls in southern China’s Guizhou Province have been sold to childless families in the U.S. and Europe for $3,000 each. These baby girls were “confiscated” from families when the parents could not pay the $3,000 fine for violating China’s Family Planning Policy.

Chinese families in rural villages, unlike those living in urban areas, are allowed to have a second child to continue the family name and to help out with the farm if the first child is not a son. However, if the rural families have more than two children, they face a fine of $3,000, which is several times a farmer’s annual income. Accordingly, this is an unpopular policy among rural residents, and families in Guizhou Province who could not pay the fine had to hand over their babies to the local authorities.

Abandoned babies in China can be registered for adoption, but the investigation alleged that the local authorities confiscated the babies and then forged documents by labeling the babies as “orphans.” The adoption fee of $3,000 per baby was split between the local authorities and the orphanages. This type of foreign adoption program has been referred to as “Baby Economy,” and the local orphanages made huge profits.

This is not the first time child trafficking from China (or India)has been uncovered. We've previously written about the international trade in babies, all documented and published in magazines such as Foreign Policy and Mother Jones--from the poor nations of the world, such as Guatemala, Vietnam, India, Nepal, Russia, Kazhakstan and others. Because the baby economy is a cash cow for poor nations and demand is high, unscrupulous individuals will find a way to provide the goods--even when there are no babies available through honest means. Children are kidnapped, mothers are tricked into giving up their babies for what they think is a temporary time, papers are forged and children are stolen. Why? Because people are willing to not look deeply into where the children come from, or if they are indeed orphans.

What creates this market? People who believe that they are entitled to a child, simply because they can afford one, when nature does not provide. The comments of a prospective adoptive parent to the previous post (Banned by Adoptionvoices.com!) calling FirstMotherForum anti-adoption led me to give this answer to her and the others like her. We repeat, as we do so often here, that we understand that adoptions must happen in some circumstances. But today the demand for babies has irrevocably skewed the system towards adoption at any cost--to the mother, to the child.

While treatments such as DES years ago led to infertility among the children whose mothers took the hormone, a great deal of the pressure simply comes from a culture where it is seen as normal to wait to have children after thirty-five, after a woman's ability to conceive has dropped precipitously.

Sometimes adoptions are indeed necessary, but the demand for fresh, healthy infants today has led to the wholesale trafficking of children worldwide. If speaking out against that makes us anti-adoption, so be it. If speaking hard truths on sites promoting adoptions gets us banned, so be it. We are far too aware of the emotional fallout for both natural mothers and the children to support adoption as the common solution it is today for people wanting a child.

Yes, it is sad when one cannot have a child, but that does not entitle you to someone else's.

I write this today knowing that my voice is one of a few crying in the wilderness, that it will be heard by only a few, that it will offend some, and in the larger picture, our voices will be drowned out by the group-think of a generation. Sadly, the baby economy is completely integrated into society today, and I do not have the force of government behind me to change policy. And it will take a sea-change to alter attitudes.

But I will go on speaking and writing this until my last breath. --lorraine

PS: In an irony of magnitude, when I edited this post...up popped an ad for Spence-Chapin:

Adopt a Baby

Loving Families Needed. Domestic & Intl programs.

Loving families needed? to fill the coffers of Spence-Chapin.


  1. Lorraine,

    You are not the lone voice out there so many mother's have been speaking out to be chided and harassed by those who are seeking to adopt, those that have adopted, and those who are facilitating adoptions. I have been called bitter etc by adopters even those adopting from China. American adopters old enough to be grandparents of the children they are adopting a better life?

    Yes, I am anti adoption because I do believe it harms more than it does good. It displaces families to create those who seek to have a family. At whose expense. Well, is certainly isn't those wanting to adopt.

    The money drowns out the truth of adoption. Its all wonderful and gives adoptee's a better life. Which we mother's KNOW isn't the truth.

    I will go to my grave saying the same thing taking a baby from its family is wrong. Its all about the buck and nothing about care, or love or concern its about getting a baby for anyone that thinks they need a baby for their desires and wants.

  2. One correction and a comment -

    It was not an adoption agency, but rather the local orphanage that split the mandatory orphanage donation with the local corrupt officials. Adoption agencies go directly through the Chinese Center for Adoption Affairs (CCAA), so I know that the western adoption agencies did not profit from this situation. And I highly doubt that the CCAA knowingly profited, since this practice is against the law in China.

    Second, as a comment, it was an adoptive mother who discovered and brought this situation to light.

  3. I meant the local agency got the money, but was not clear. Correction noted, and change made.

  4. For what it is worth, on July 14th the Shanghai Daily reported that a joint investigation by family planning, civil affairs personnel, police and Party disciplinary officials determined that there was no economic relationship between the local family planning commission and the orphanage.


  5. This has been out for awhile but I'm glad you addressed it. I tell people (not in Simone's presence lest she get the wrong idea) that I wouldn't do it today. The image of China as corruption-free is fading fast and it's time to close the program. The CCAA tacitly approves of this stuff. I am not excusing myself either. Confiscations are on record from '99 apparently. I'm '98.

  6. Oh, yeah, and the a-mom had gotten glorious flak for her actions too from the a-community.

  7. I find that no matter what child or country the child is from, if you speak out, you are labeled as "bitter" "mentally ill" and a dozen other things that are so lovely to hear from people thought to be rational adults.

    The truth is adoption, without real need, is theft. NO ONE can claim that adoptions that are done without real need are open and honest and that the "mother" was satisfied with the results. That would be a blatant lie. The industry is much more subtle than that.

    Worse for these children from China, etc., their records are destroyed and finding the legal parents of a child is almost impossible.

    Here is a thought, make it illegal to adopt outside the country as long as there are adoptable children who are in real need of a home.

    Right, irony intended.

  8. Actually, some a-parents are pressing for information from China. Records are not necessarily destroyed, but they are held in secrecy. Documents are not shared freely; neither are statistics, not even to researchers within China. There is reportedly a below-the-radar-group consisting of people who have found the birth parents in China, not open to anyone else.

    I think adoption should occur only where genuine need occurs, not need spawned by coercion. Right now, that is at home (in Canada and the US). Even the special needs-program is China is compromised by the fact that parents abandon because they can't afford the surgery, usually for cleft palate or some other neural tube defect, but many perceive it as a corruption-free program. Not exactly true.

  9. Osolomama< what did you mean, the a-mom got flak? Flak for what? It isn't clear. Thanks for your comments. I knew about this story and had been meaning to write about it but put it on the back burner until Jane and I used it in a story we submitted to a lawyer's journal.

    And Andy, since there is so much corruption in poor nations, I am not sure I believe the local family planning commission and the orphanage were free and clear from blame. The police and Party Disciplinary Officials? Yeah, right, and all the Chinese gymnasts (whose ages were changed on the Chinese websites) were sixteen.

    I actually have not heard of any Chinese adoptee being able to find out anything. I'd love to talk to the girls I know (now teenagers) but it would freak out their parents, so I never say anything.

  10. [Its all wonderful and gives adoptee's a better life. ]

    This is the one time where I will actually point out that I did get a better life through adoption.

    I don't know about the comparison education-wise, but I do know that I would have grown up in a lower class 2nd-world country economic home.

    With that said, I *still* don't believe it was Fate that I was adopted, nor do I think the trade-off was worth it in all aspects.

  11. Oh, she was ripped up by private e-mail and attacked on some lists as well--all too common for anyone who dares to say anything negative about the program for fear China will shut down referrals to those who are in the process of adopting. A well-known writer on this subject once wrote a piece fingering the international program for edging out domestic adoption in China (because int'l adoptions fetch much more $$), complete with data. He submitted his article to a well-known adoption magazine that agreed to publish it. The plan was for him to run the piece on his blog first and then refer people to the mag for more info. But reaction to the blog by a-parents and PAPS was so extreme and so negative that the mag canned the story--but not before pronouncing it full of errors.

  12. Most AP's can't handle the TRUTH. This is why they censor adoptees and birth mothers.

    It's criminal that psychological exams are not administered to every PAP before they are handed an innocent child. But, money talks and adult adoptees are censored so the abuse and neglect from their mentally unstable adopted parents is 'collateral damage'. Just a 'small price' to pay for the BIG BUCKS.

  13. Osolo, I am still not clear...why was this amom criticized? Are you saying it was a prospective adoptive parent, or an adoptive mom, who brought this story from China to light>>>>What the woman did, not by whom or how she was criticized, is the question.

  14. Lorraine you said:

    “And Andy, since there is so much corruption in poor nations, I am not sure I believe the local family planning commission and the orphanage were free and clear from blame. The police and Party Disciplinary Officials? Yeah, right, and all the Chinese gymnasts (whose ages were changed on the Chinese websites) were sixteen.”

    The Shanghai Daily piece I shared did not specifically exculpate the local family planning commission. Actually it said six officials were punished. If you’re interested, The Wall Street Journal has a report that provides specific details of the case: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124670435918294561.html

  15. By other adoptive parents and PAPS waiting for referrals. This is standard when anyone criticizes the China system. "Don't say anything bad about China because they can close the program without notice." They did, in fact, do this after the Dying Rooms debacle. Remember that one? That's my era.

  16. osolomama:
    the main flak the a-mom got was because of forwarding a photo of a child that has nothing to do with this scandal (which is about 3 children, not 80 btw) to the international press. She got this photo by lying to the adoptive mother (she said she needed it to find the foster mother of said child). The family it concerns is devastated: they are looking into legal action.

    It's good that these kind of things are published: I was amazed lots of American adoptive parents had no clue. However: it's not "news" and no reason to forward a photo to the press without authorization of the people involved.

    The one child policy started in 1979, so did the forced abortions (up to 9 months of gestation): what makes you so sure confiscations (of children of pregnant mothers who escaped an abortion) didn't happen until 1999?

  17. Miriam, she got more flak than that.

    I said confiscations are documented as far back as 1999. I didn't say they didn't occur before then.

  18. There's information about how this story reportedly broke on this blog

  19. Sorry, I hit the button before signing in. She got more flak than just for the picture.

    I said confiscations are documented as far back as 1999, not that they didn't exist before then. Consider, though, that before China instituted its int'l adoption program and reburfished its orphanages, the incentive to procure children for the adoption program would probably be lower than it is today.

  20. Research-China is an excellent resource. Somebody's over there making accusations about the picture as well, unless it's been taken down.

  21. osolomama:
    The photo-scam is a bigger scandal in the Netherlands than the Zhengzhou-"news" (which was no "news" in the Dutch adoption community at all). The Dutch links on Brian's blog are either off-line or altered because of that photo. China Daily has removed it as well.

    So no flak about the "news" from this site of the ocean (which news?).

    Your view on Research-China, or better, Brian Stuy, is not shared by everyone.

  22. Mirjam, I am entitled to express my views here. My personal impression of him, through private correspondence and reading of his public writings, is that this is a person who thinks hard about the issues. However, the fact that others do not share this view comes as no surprise to me. I will continue to recommend research-china.org as a resource.

  23. I know a bit about the "photo" involved as my friend was the adoptive mother involved in helping to bring out the story. As my friend tells me, the photo was a mistake on her part, when she E-mailed a Chinese man, who does not speak English, an attachment in Chinese. She did not realize that there was a second attachment, an unlabeled photo of a Chinese kid with a woman. Some how, the photo got passed along to the Chinese press, who never checked their sources (I guess they can't speak English and the adoptive mom doesn't speak Chinese). The child has nothing to do with the story and I don't even understand why the Chinese press published it, but I'm not a reporter and I don't know how reporters work. Actually, I'm not terribly impressed with these reporters for not checking sources. The adoptive mother was trying to help the other mother with locating some information about her child, as I know she has done this for at least 2 other adoptive families from this town. The adoptive mother had sent this child's information to a Chinese friend/translator, living in the US, whose first language is not English. Apparantly, both things were going on simultaneously and it is the translator who screwed up and gave the Chinese reporters the identifying info about the child. It was one mistake by my friend, that got compounded by the translator and mushroomed by the Chinese media. When my friend realized what had happened, she explained and apoligized to the other adoptive mom and contacted the translator, to contact the reporters, to remove the photo. The reporters issued an apology to the other adoptive mom and removed the photo from the original article. Unfortunately, by this time, other news media had already lifted the photo from the original article.
    My friend says she has explained this over and over again to the other adoptive mom, but this other adoptive mom keeps claiming she was set up. She wasn't set up. It was just an initial terrible mistake by my friend, that got compounded by translators and Chinese press.
    I have told my friend repeatedly that she should explain her side of the story, but she is so upset about the lies being spread, that she has gone offline completely and swears she will never help another adoptive parent again. The whole thing is such a shame.

  24. osolomama:
    He lost me and many others after "The myth of the mourning birthmother", and after first publishing this:
    http://research-china.blogspot.com/2005/11/false-hope-of-sibling-dna-testing.html and a few years later this: http://research-china.blogspot.com/2009/01/birth-parent-analysis.html, probably after finding out DNA-testing was another business oppertunity.

    Me and the many others have no problem whatsoever that he brings "scandals": we were already convinced before adopting that the integrity of China's adoption program was slightly exaggerated (and that's an understatement).
    I stumbled upon someone online with an adopted child from China just a few weeks ago who was convinced that all adopted children from China were orphans in the actual sense of the word: with deceased parents. So for those people that weblog is an eye-opener: not for me.

  25. anonymous:
    I've read the whole correspondence between your friend and the people involved. There was a post on many list to find the 3 Zhenyuan-children (not saying it was about the Zhenyuan-case) because there was "information". The mother answered this post to see if there was information about her child (not mentioned in the post) as well.
    The requested finding ad was used to check if the child had her birthparents house as finding place as well, later on this family encountered their(uninvolved) daughter in every newspaper and on national tv. This has nothing to do with the Chinese press not checking their sources: the photo was send as an attachment with the findings about Zhenyuan. When a reporter receives a story with a picture in the attachment, he will use it: sells much better.

    Later on, your friend asked this family for the adress of a friend who had adopted one of the 3 children involved, because there was "information" for them, still not revealing that it was to build up the Zhenyuan-case. Fortunately the mother didn't give the adress.

    To apologize by saying you have "crappy computer skills" doesn't make up for the child being labeled as "sold" everywhere she goes nowadays.

  26. Anon's story about the photo is confirmed by aother source as well but you and others, Mirjam, have managed to keep this alive through accusation and innuendo, thereby underplaying the significance of an orphanage probably set up simply to confiscate children.

    I have read all the posts you cite on the research-china blog several times. You have one view; I have another. I believe you have posted the link to the myth of mourning birthmother on the Research-China blog because you know it will send people here into a tizzy. I suggest that folks actually go there and read it instead of taking your word for what's offensive and what isn't.

    I'm done with this one.

  27. Osolomama, thanks, I just skimmed the story you suggested at the official sounding research.china site.

    At least the comments after it talk about the different cultures and the different reactions that that leads to. And by the time someone is giving away a child, she has dealt with all the emotions internally, and is as stoic as Robert E. Lee was at Appomattox.

  28. I think stoic is a beautiful word, Lorraine, because it communicates the public face and the "official" truth; this is not necessarily the real one but it has a kind of reality that serves a purpose even to the person herself.

  29. So how could it be then that the name of the child, which was not on the photo in the attachment, nor in the title of the photo, was printed below the photo in all the newspapers if it was just "crappy computer skills"? The only one who knew the name connected to the photo was the a-mom. Or are we dealing with a clearvoyant reporter? Don't think so.
    BTW: did you, anon or "aother source" read the correspondence? I did.

    Just giving an example of why the a-mom got flak. I for one think the NSN-program should have been closed after Hunan already: better safe than sorry. Nowadays NSN-children are mainly adopted domestic (according Hague) wait is going up, DTC today: referral after 7 years. There is no need for IA of NSN-children from China anymore. So I have absolutely no reason for underplaying. Talk about accusation and innuendo.

    Done as well.

  30. They got the name from the finding ad that was attached in the same e-mail. The name was marked by the orphanage.

  31. Mirjam:
    You have jumped to conclusions. There was someone else who knew the information.

  32. So many coincidences... and a shattered child and family.

  33. Someone else? This confidential information?

    BTW: did you read the correspondence?

  34. Also think your claim that you encountered a person on a list who thought "all adopted children from China were orphans in the actual sense of the word: with deceased parents" is a complete fantasy on your part.

  35. I have "inherited" an adopted child from China. She was originally adopted by an older woman and a younger man (now my husband). I often wonder how good the background check was on the adoptive mother. I hear it is better today, but back in 1993 it was not so good.

    I would never want to be without my Step Daughter, but I don't know what kind of good system that really checks backgrounds of people could have allowed that woman to adopt.

    Does anyone know what the rules were in 1993 regarding china adoptions?

  36. Dear Stephanie:

    I presume you meant to type "birth" or "original" or "first" in place of "adoptive" when you wondered how much research was done on the "adoptive" mother?

    Since very few regular readers find these old posts, I will raise the question on the current blog today.

  37. I would just like to say, not all adoptive families are infertile. Many of us are willing to give up material possessions etc...to give a home to a child who has none. We choose to open our heart fully and love our precious gift fully. As a mother of 2 birth children and a beautiful adopted daughter from China, I can assure you all, that the love is as deep, beautiful and permanent for both our adopted child and ourselves. We live in a world that exploits children and that doesn't change the fact that my precious child was in an orphanage and needed a home. Please be very careful to assume that you know the motives and hearts of all adoptive parents. I love all of my children equally. I am saddened that this website chooses to focus on this negative opinion of adoption.

  38. No I actually meant how much research was done on the Adoptive mom, the woman who adopted the child.

    She is bipolar, and she abandoned two birth children as teenagers, in addition to many other things that she did that neither my husband knew about, nor apparently the adoption agency when my step daughter was adopted.

    I'm thankful to have my step daughter in my life but it was a big struggle for her growing up with a Mother who was mentally ill.



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