' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: Harvesting Children from Ethiopia for Families in America

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Harvesting Children from Ethiopia for Families in America

Harvesting children for profit goes on in poor countries all over the world. Ethiopia is one of the newest to cash in on this crop for export, a business spurred by Angelina Jolie's adoption of a daughter Zahara in 2005. According to a new report from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, approximately 30 children a week leave the country to adopted in wealthier nations, adding $100 million a year to the cash-strapped economy. Consequently, the government has little to zero interest in stopping this flow of cash and so turn a blind eye to harvesting of their children.

And one of the most successful human trafficking scams is run by no other than the Christian World Adoption, included in yesterday's post decrying the closing of adoption from Guatemala. Yes, there true orphans in Ethiopia--up to five million--but the disgusting tactics of Christian World Adoptions encourages families and women to give up their children simply because they are poor. It's the crassest of proselytizing to raise new Christians; left behind with their tears and memories are the mothers, these women who are our sisters in sorrow and grief. Yet here is how the adoptions are sold at the Christian World Adoptions website:
Ethiopia Adoption
Ethiopia Adoption Program
Christian World is very pleased to be among the first U.S. agencies authorized and accredited to have an Ethiopia adoption program. The Ethiopia adoption program is our largest program, and each year we place over 200 children from Ethiopia with loving, forever families.
A recent documentary called Fly Away Children by journalist Andrew Geoghegan for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation shows the tactics used to convince women to give up their children. The women are promised updates and information every three months, only to hear nothing. The families who come to take their children are advised to come in and out of the country quickly so as not to be aware of what is really going on, or they send someone to pick up the child so as to not touch down in the country at all. Often children are advertised as healthy--videos you can watch on your computer are available--only to have multiple life-threatening problems.

As Geoghegan reports in Fly Away Children:
Across the city, hotel foyers have become clearing houses, departure lounges for many families and their adopted children. This is the scene in just one hotel in Addis Ababa. And the website You Tube is plastered with new parents’ home movies.

The crude reality is that children have become a big Ethiopian export....
Ethiopia is not a signatory to the Hague Convention which requires international adoption be used only as a last resort. So as a result, a completely unregulated industry has grown up. More than 70 agencies operate here, almost half are unregistered. Corruption, fraud and deception are rife.

The movie takes just under a half hour to watch but is worth your time--especially if you are thinking of adopting from a foreign country. Included is a family from Palm Beach, Florida who went to Ethiopia to take three children from their mother, a pastor and his wife, who were facing the empty-nest syndrome because their three sons were grown and gone. Why did it not occur to them simply to find a woman who needed help and support her so she could raise her own children? In most African countries, $25 to $50 a month will provide a family with a good living.These people live in Palm Beach, one of the wealthiest communities in the country, and it was obvious they could support several families if their goal was to actually help others. No, their goal was to fill their house with children. And certainly they are being congratulated and praised for taking all three siblings. But instead of helping, they put additional pressure on the suppliers to come up with more children to harvest for the American market. Do they piss me off? Oh yeah. Because it's all done under the rubric of "doing good" but they are Doing Bad by taking children who have a mother--but who is simply too poor to raise them. Christian? Hardly.

They might also consider helping the family, also featured in the ABC report, that ended up caring for a seriously ill child whose drugs cost nearly $750 a month. They were told the child they picked out of the sales lineup of photos was healthy, but instead has multiple problems, and they, quite courageously, are making do.

Parents who adopt from other cultures need to be absolutely sure that they are not taking stolen children, that the children they adopt are true orphans. But in their desire to have a child, many simply look away, and say, Not my child. If you don't think it can happen to you, read this story about a child kidnapped in India and sold for just over $300. He is being raised in the Midwest. The other day at the beach I saw a woman with two little girls, one obviously her biological daughter,the other obviously Indian. Who are her real parents? I thought. Was this another kidnapped child whose family wonders what happened to their beautiful daughter? And she was beautiful. A prime candidate for kidnapping.

The whole business of harvesting children to feed the international market for babies reeks of corruption and deceit and fraud. Call it humanitarian, and you are deluding yourself. Harvesting children from other cultures and countries is the whole trafficking of children. I am reminded of The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood's book about a class of women who are recruited to have children for others. Sadly, it has become a reality in our lifetime.--lorraine

Note: To make this even more sickening, when I edited this post as a reader suggested, I got an ad for Ethiopia Adoption...from an International Adoption site. As well as three other ads-just in case I had a baby to give up in an "open adoption."
I'm going to give Google a piece of my mind.


  1. You asked "why didn't they bring the mother back to Palm Beach too?"

    The mother would not be allowed into the U.S. unless she received approval for immigration (very difficult process to get approved for permanent residency status). The kids, however, are automatically approved to enter with their adoptive parents. If this mother attempted to enter the U.S. to make a better life for herself and her children, she would likely be considered an illegal alien. But separate her from her children and insert the APs into the equation...presto, change-o!...a new American forever family is born.

    Strange, eh?

  2. I'm waiting for someone to comment as Lisa did on the previous post about corruption in Guatemala adoptions that regardless of how children come to the US, they are better off than living (and dying) in the streets.

    The "better off" argument doesn't hold water. There are milllions of poor children all over the world. In the US alone, something like one in ten children live in poverty.

    Each year, about 17,000 children are adopted from abroad in the US, a drop in a leaky bucket. Rather than taking $25,000 -$30,000 from prospective adoptive parents to bring a poor child to the US, Christian World Adoption ought to follow Christ's advice and encourage the would-be parents to donate money to help families care for their own children in theoir own countries.

  3. Yes, I knew the mother couldn't come, but did it occur to them to send the money they would spend on raising the children here in America to the woman back in Africa? She could have a nice life there with so little income. Twenty-five to $50 a month provides a good living in many African countries.

    Will change the blog post to reflect that.

  4. Why has it not occured to anyone that this is what it is - SLAVERY. It is the most horrific of all human behaviors. To buy a child, no matter whose or from what country should be a crime. To pay a single cent for an attorney or agency to "find" a child is paying a SLAVE TRADER to do whatever it takes to find the product.

    I dispise the idea of adoption. At the same time I hear so much about how these so called parents bringing children from overseas. At the same time 25,000 teens age out of American foster care to nothing. No home, no job, no experience and at least 80% do not have the education to do much more than wash dishes.

    What is wrong with adoption of these children? The answers I have heard are myriad, but all boil down to two things....if you adopt from foster care you risk them being "broken" and you risk having a birthparent close by.

    Does that speak volumes about what it really is?

  5. Lori,

    At the risk of offending you, I don't find your comment especially helpful.

    Please let me tell you how, for example, my China adoption fee was broken down in 1998:

    $5000 – on an agency we closed down because it was unethical. Lost the fee.
    $1500 – to register with the new agency
    $800 – homestudy, paid directly to social worker
    $1000 – forms, documents, fingerprints, passports, visas, notarization fees, paid directly to the gov't agencies involved
    $2000 – travel to China
    $3000 – hotel and personal expenses, including medical for baby, during the mandatory 2-week stay in China
    $4500 Canadian ($3000US) orphanage donation

    No one runs around with $18,000 bulging out of their pockets ready to pay that sum to anyone willing to hand them a child. As you can see from this list, the money gets dribbled away—given to several players who prop up the system and get their tidbit. For China, the orphanage donation is the biggest question mark item but do consider that China has rebuilt its social welfare institute system with these donations.

    You know how I feel about international adoptions and that corruption has seeped into most of them. But there is no sense comparing adoption to slavery as though the money were being spent in the same way with the same intention and the same mindset. Most of the people in my group told me they went into debt to adopt. Certainly I did. So I will say once again: the comparison is offensive. Can we direct the discussion in another way to enlighten people considering international adoption. . .to dissuade them from going into it without some real soul-searching and cold water?

  6. Lorraine, I was being snarky about the mother coming here, didn't mean to imply your post needed any editing.

    However, I do think it's interesting that the U.S. would generally not allow a poor mother to bring her children to the U.S. but Americans adopting those same children is perfectly okay. This makes no sense; if we are truly bringing children here to have a better life, then their bio-family should automatically be included, ESPECIALLY the mother. They should be able to enter with something like a sponsor that would help get them on their feet and mentor them in their transition to American life. The adopters who are SOOOO keen on saving those poor children would never consider this - they want the babies, not the mother or any other bothersome bio-relatives. I find this very exploitive and definitely in the realm of human trafficking.

    The other option, as you highlighted, would be to simply sponsor the family to remain in their own country.

    But since adoption is really about finding babies for wannabe parents, and not truly about saving anyone, these options are rarely explored.

  7. Hi Maybe:

    As you see I did change the post per your comment, and I think it was for the better. I sometimes write these posts on the fly (one does have another life) and keeping the family together was on my mind. Yes, if they want to adopt, they should consider the whole family, not be applauded (and patting themselves on the back for doing good in the world) when there is a mother alive and yearning for her children. Separating them the way this kind of adoption does is simply cruel, and to do it under the rubric of a "Christian" name is beyond the pale. It all feeds into the "doing good in the world."

    But I still do think that motherless children, or those without any family and absolutely better off in loving households, wherever they are in the world. The one good that can come out of all the cross racial adoptions, one hopes, is a lessening of discrimination. If they lead to more intermarriage and we are all brown and slightly Asian, we won't discriminate on the basis of race alone.

    An American adoptive mother who had adopted an infant once mentioned to me that she thinks any adopting ought to that both the young mother and her baby, instead of just the child. At her daughter's request, the amom tracked down her daughter's mother when she and her husband separated, and they had a reunion, but there was a huge class difference, and I do not believe she has much of a relationship with her first mother.

  8. No sense in comparing adoption with slavery?

    Well, maybe in adopto-land, that logic can thrive.

    However, in the REAL world, exchanging money to other humans in order to obtain another human is treating the "purchased" as property. This was done throughout history for laborers and is done now for meeting the emotional needs of a childless couple. In both instances, the "purchased" is USED to meet the needs of others.

  9. Wow. I watched the docu and it just makes me feel so angry and sad.

    I know a couple of families who adopted from Ethiopia. I wonder how they can be sure that their adopted children are truly orphans.

    Something that comes into my mind (and it's hard for me to explain it) is the whole "Adopters as Saviors" thing. (My husband and I adopted through foster care, and we frequently get the Oh-aren't-you-so-wonderful-you-saved-her-life!type of comments.) It makes me want to puke! Why does everyone focus so much on how great the a-parents are? Does no one think it's sad that these kids are being taken from their (true) homes?

    What if some of these kids grow-up and don't feel grateful to their adopter/saviors?

    Not only have you got the 'you should be grateful you were adopted thing' to deal with but you've also got the fact that you were adopted out of a poor country. Like, you should feel so grateful that you got to grow up in America rather than [poor country].

  10. So I am assuming all of (especially the individual who mentioned teens and foster care) are signing up to be foster parents now since you are all experts in the field? Just wondering...

  11. I'm an adoptive mother, to three children from Ethiopia. I've met their birth mother and we've had extensive conversations (through not only our agency but a private investigator we hired to help us communicate). I think it's very easy for people to pass judgment on others, especially in "blogland". I think corruption needs to be brought to light and people need to be aware that adoption is not a simple solution to anything. In fact-it solves nothing except the immediate need for a child to have some basic necessities (and even then there are no guarantees that the birth mother was unable to provide this nor that the adoptive parents will provide it).

    My point is that not all adoptive parents have a savior complex. In fact, it turns my stomach whenever anybody says something like that. And, unless you know each birth family in the situation-it's very easy for people who are uninvolved to pass judgment. It saddens me deeply when I see people hurling hurtful comments at each other in efforts to prove who is more right about this situation. If you truly care-do something to change it.

    And, I hope that those of you who are suggesting that a family be sponsored so they can raise their own children are taking your own advice. Not only childless couples or couples who want more children should be sponsoring. If you feel the need to help, then please do. We have a sponsor family/child as well.

    I hope that you are all as active in the real world as you are in this virtual one.

  12. Actually, I am quite involved in social movements. If you bothered to find out anything about me, you would know that I have been active in the movement to give adult adoptees their original birth certificates since the mid-seventies, and also work to end the kind of wholesale adoption of children from poor couples, which are often supplied to well-off couples and single women, or well enough off women and couples, to "complete" their idea of family. I do not doubt that most of these people love their children and sincerely believe they are doing their best for them. However, I do not think that many of them understand the unending trauma of a woman who gives up her child to be raised by genetic strangers in another part of the world.

    And I am also an active fund-raiser and supporter of Women for Women International, whose goal is to better the lives of women in countries ravaged by war. And allow them to provide for their children.

  13. It is estimated that there are 84 different indigenous languages in Ethiopia. Are there any linguists out there who might know if the word "adoption" even exists in the mother tongue of many poor Ethiopians? Is the concept of "adoption" part of Ethiopian culture? Are the poor of Ethiopia capable of comprehending and giving informed consent to the process of adoption?

  14. Google led me to your blog. We are a family who was in the process of adopting from Ethiopia, 3 children from two biological families. Mid process we found out that both sets of children have living and healthy birth mothers. We asked our agency if a family sponsorship program would be more appropriate and began to ask some hard questions about the reasons for relinquishment. Our agency director told us that no such program exists in Ethiopia and said she couldn't remember why the parents didn't want to raise their children. (Even though she was there to interview them both!) When we set out to adopt we wanted to give the gift of a family to a child who had no family! We were shocked to see the two birth mothers, in the video we received, handing over their children to the director of our agency!! For about two weeks I wondered and worried about theses strange videos and evasive answers, then the Fly Away Children video was forwarded to me, which finally helped me put the pieces of my suspicions together. Two months have gone by and we have been working with the Ethiopian government to investigate our case but after all these weeks we have not heard one single word about the well being or whereabouts of the children and their mothers! We have tried to find a private attorney or investigator who might help us find them but have had no success in finding one (although we may be close, I am expecting a phone call tomorrow). Anyway, I stumbled across your blog just now and wondered if you would have any insight for me. Who could find these mothers for us? I would prefer you not publish this comment. I couldn't find an email address to contact you. My email is charissaurban@yahoo.com

  15. We have tried this email, but it does not seem to work. To reach me, you might try...information.

  16. "Maybe" wrote:

    The adopters who are SOOOO keen on saving those poor children would never consider this - they want the babies, not the mother or any other bothersome bio-relatives.

    These broad and sweeping generalizations are so unhelpful as to be offensive. My sons were adopted as real orphans, with real dead parents. The little one had been "given away" to care for an 80 year old lady 75 miles away. Their adoption left behind 5 siblings too old to be adopted under US immigration law. The boys stay in touch with them, and we are paying for the college education of one and the support of another, in addition to doing what we can to help their nephews when they need it.

    That is one family's story, and I think we do a lot less than a number of other adoptive families I know.

    No doubt some adoptive parents fit your stereotype, but it is so slanted and overly broad as to be make you less of a commentator and more of a caricature of the outraged internet addict. What are you doing to help the other members of my sons' natural family? Posting about how someone needs to?

  17. Wow. This is the most unfortunately collection of angry, careless comments I have come across in years. I am just too stunned to begin to correct the many ways you are so, so off base.

  18. Serving and LovingJune 15, 2010 at 4:16 AM

    I am led to share the grateful reality that as believers in Christ, we were all first adopted by God...bought with a price...and called to love and serve wherever He leads. Human trafficing, harvesting of children, and any kind of corruption of that sort is sin. Adoption is not sin...it was God's idea! Sometimes God calls specific families to very specific places to adopt, care for, and love the orphan. He calls others to give and serve in other ways. It's the body of Christ at work according to His design, His grace and His mercy. God's heart for the orphan is huge, and it has been so enlightning to learn how He has specifically planted this supernatural love into the hearts of many families and individuals.

  19. We are in the process of adopting a child in Ethiopia. Our child's situation is far from the cash-for-babies horror you suggest.

    Our child was abandoned during a period of drought and famine. No birth family has been located. Our Christian agency has no agenda and has not pressured us one bit. We are agnostic.

    Probably abuses exist in the world of international adoption but our observation so far ihas been the opposite.

    Ethiopia is a signatory to the Hague agreement. There and here we see only strict aherence to the law and high ethic standards.

    Our adoption agency has a program to financialy support and keep families intact in Ethiopia, and we contribute to that.

    Your feelings are understandable but in truth there are legions of abandoned, parentless kids in children's villages and orphanages in Ethiopia. On the streets of Addis Ababa homeless kids sleep by the sides of busy roads.

    Try watching some of those documentaries. There's more than one perspective and reality here.

  20. I've lived in Ethiopia, (at an orphanage) and have adopted 2 orphans from Ethiopia. I also have bio kids. You seem passionate yet lacking in your understanding of reality. You should go live in Africa for at least 5 years. :) Then your blog posts might be interesting.



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