' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: In adoption, money talks

Monday, January 11, 2010

In adoption, money talks

The death of 30 year old Johnson & Johnson heir and adoptive parent of three year old Ava from Kazakhstan, Casey Johnson, brings to light once again the role money plays in adoption. The web magazine ParentDish asks:
"Just why was it so easy for such a troubled young woman to adopt a child? We've become so used to celebrities swooping into foreign countries and coming home with a brood of children, that we don't even blink when we read about another kid being added to the Jolie-Pitt clan.
"But Johnson's case is different: How is it possible that her wealth and family name outweighed the obvious facts of her life? Reports of her lifestyle offer ample evidence that she was a less-than-ideal adoptive parent. According to one particularly damning story in the New York Daily News, a family friend said Sale Johnson helped her daughter recover from a couple of diabetic comas; Johnson was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes as a child and according to a friend, her 'body couldn't metabolize the drugs and alcohol she was using.' The Daily News also reports that Johnson has been in and out of rehab for drug problems.

"A medical form required by the government of Kazakhstan, lists several diseases that prohibit prospective parents from adopting a child from the country, including alcoholism, drug addiction and toxicomania.

"These characteristics of Johnson's life would have presented significant road blocks for an ordinary single woman looking to adopt a child.

"And Johnson's problems went beyond her health: Although her troubles seem to have escalated since pairing up with Tila Tequila ( the Los Angeles Police Department has issued search warrants against both women on Dec. 11, in regard to Johnson's arrest for grand theft stemming from allegations that the heiress stole clothing and jewelry from her ex-girlfriend, model Jasmine Lennard, according to TMZ), the hard-partying heiress's antics had made her a fixture in NYC gossip columns for most of the last decade

"We aren't the only ones who question the wisdom of giving Johnson custody of a child. 'Casey was probably the last person who should have been taking care of a baby,' a family friend tells the News. And Eonline reports that Child Protective Services paid Johnson at least two visits."

(Judging by the many websites touting Kazakhstan adoptions, it has become a fertile source for Americans wishing to adopt. Kazakhstan, between Russia and China, offers both Caucasian and Asian children.)

While ParentDish does not answer its question directly, it seems obvious that Johnson was allowed to adopt because her ample resources caused officials to look the other way. Johnson is not the first unstable person allowed to adopt and surely won’t be the last. According to Pound Pup Legacy, reports of adopters abusing or even murdering their adopted children are commonplace. One of the most notorious cases of sexual abuse was in the news again this week. Masha Allen was adopted in 1998 at the age of five from Novoshakhtinsk, Rostov, Russia into the US by a single male pedophile, Matthew Mancuso. Masha was sexually abused for five years and also became the subject of child pornography. Masha’s adoption was arranged by Jeannene Smith of Families Through International Adoption, Inc. and Reaching Out Through International Adoption, later known as Child Promise. Masha was re-adopted by Faith Allen who, it turns out, was mentally ill. Allen terminated her parental rights, unadopting Masha December 30, 2009.

While states require prospective adoptive parents to have a “home study,” these studies may be (and usually are) conducted by the same agency which arranges the adoption. It does not stretch the imagination to believe that, with a fee from a wealthy potential adopter at stake, home study preparers may stretch the truth.

Speaking of money in adoption, Truly Blessed objected to my use of the word “purchase” in my comment on our post We Did It!

“Few, if any of us [adoptive parents], would walk up to someone and take their child away from them. And most of us would walk away from a child if we thought for one second we were "buying" (or is it "purchasing"?) a child.”

Now, it’s true that prospective adoptive parents don’t walk into an adoption agency asking “How much is that baby in the window, the one with the curly hair” but money and babies change hands, all be it through middlewomen.

Only a small portion of the $30,000 plus in fees paid to adoption agencies or facilitators goes to the producer of the goods, often for housing which also helps insure that the mother will not split or change her mind about surrendering. Much of the balance goes for staff salaries and the aggressive marketing necessary to convince vulnerable young woman to give their babies to strangers and convince anxious would-be parents that a strange baby will meet their needs.

(I should point out that only about a quarter of adoptions are the “purchase” kind. Another quarter are relative or step parent adoptions and about half of adopted children come from state child welfare agencies.) Obviously the people who pay the big bucks to adopt expect something better than they could get for free from state child welfare agencies. Many of the freebies, after all, are special needs kids or “dks’ – damaged kids, as adoptive father Dan Savage calls them in recounting the adoption of a healthy newborn with his partner in The Kid: What Happened After My Boyfriend and I Decided to Go Get Pregnant (2000). ”

Look at the titles of books written about adoption and you see the language of commerce: Adopt the Baby You Want; Adopt a Baby in Less than 173 Days or Your money Back; Fast Track Adoption: The Faster, Safer Way to Privately Adopt a Baby; The Ultimate Insider’s Guide to Adoption; Everything You Need to Know About Domestic and International Adoption; Adoption for Dummies. The message is clear: children are commodities available to anyone with enough money.

As to little Ava, according to ParentDish, “she is with her grandmother, Sale [Johnson’s mother], and Sale's husband, former NFL player and sports broadcaster Ahmad Rashad.” Although I’m sure it is unlikely, I hope that Ava can be returned to her original or extended family in Kazakhstan which, with help from the Johnson’s, would be able to nurture her.


  1. A friend of mine lived in Kazakhstan for several years working with a US law firm. He hooked up a couple times with a Kazakh woman who was an adoption facilitator. He didn't now anything about the adoption industry at the time, but literally ran away from her when she suggested she join his business. She offered to pay him $200 for every kid he could scare up.

  2. Returned to Kazakstan? Now you know that won't EVER happen!

    Its all about those who can afford the price can buy a baby. Money can buy a baby for a young woman who obviously had many problems, including being rich and able to acquire anything she wanted including a baby.

    Seems Ms. Johnson's mother will get another chance to ruin another child with "money" I mean "love"
    She did a horrible job with her real child, now she gets to pretend she's mommy to another woman's child. Bizarre,,,,haven't heard a word in the news about this but have heard how Ms. Johnson played and partied with the rich and famous and bought herself a baby to play with when she wasn't partying.

    Better life I think NOT even though the money will help bring the child up she will always miss the most important link her mother, and I am not speaking of Johnson.

  3. How very sad. The entirety of adoption is sad. The fact that Americans, especially rich ones, get to deprive foreign countries of their richness - their children - and no one seems willing to band together to stop it.

    We have to stand together - all of us - kids, parents (both kinds) - or we might as well be silent.

  4. I just read today that her aunt owned the orphanage where Casey got the child from.

  5. In a country completely driven by Capitalism, human rights, respect and decency will always take second (or third...or fourth) place.

    Capitalism has its place but in my opinion, it has no business being involved in setting the minimum standards for how human beings are treated. Why? Because Capitalism will always throw out those that cannot contribute to its gain.

    Take health care for example. EMTALA had to be created because hospitals would refuse to admit single, poor pregnant women who were in labor if they were afraid that the women couldn't pay the resulting hospital bill. Can't contribute to the financial gain of the hospital? Give birth on the street. Despite EMTALA, people still somehow end up dying while crying out from a supine position on waiting room floors. Capitalism and competition may help further our medical technology but financial gain has no business setting the baseline standard by which all humans, regardless of socioeconomic status, are treated.

    I could go on about numerous industries where human services are provided (food, clothing, housing, education etc.) but I'll skip right to adoption. In my opinion, financial gain in private adoption absolutely sets the baseline standard for how human beings are treated. It causes adoption agencies to offer newer and better services to those to contribute to that gain (the prospective adoptive parents). Pro-adoption entities now assist adoptive parents with obtaining toll-free phone numbers, personal websites, fancy profiles and even carefully placed advertising among other things. There's even current and even pending legislation out there to make adopting easier. There is a big lacking of services, however, to birth parents who are fallen on hard times and would be using resources rather than contributing to profit. Not only that, it is "OK" as a societal opinion for families to be "heros," "unselfish" and "do the right thing" and relinquish their babies and small children due to temporary financial troubles that they can find no resources to help them pull through.

    In short, so long as there is profit in adoption, benevolence will always be a secondary (or heck, tertiary) motivation to provide services and the baseline for the care and consideration of human beings will always be set in favor of those who are paying. You can't consider the needs of a child first if your main priority is those who are paying for your services.

  6. Thank you, Amanda. That's what we have been saying here for more than a year.



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