' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: Can International Adoption Be Fixed? As well as the drug trade.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Can International Adoption Be Fixed? As well as the drug trade.

The case of seven year old Artyom Savelyev (Justin Hansen) whose adoptive mother, Torry Hansen, sent him back to Russia is only the latest example of intercountry adoption gone horribly wrong. According to Marley Greiner's blog, The Daily Bastardette, fourteen Russian children have been murdered by their American adoptive parents. Disruptions in foreign adoptions are not uncommon, and as we have reported here, corruption is widespread.

While these parents must be held accountable for their horrific acts, another villain, lurking behind the scene, is the demand for foreign kids fueled by aggressive marketing on the part of the adoption industry. These children are attractive to those seeking to adopt because they are thought to come with less baggage (such as mothers) than American children. Glossy ads on the web perpetuate what David Smolin of Cumberland Law School describes as “the adoption myth in the United States [that] sends the message that the love and care found in any normal American home is enough to heal any child.”

Experts have recommended actions which might prevent these tragedies -- better screening of prospective adoptive parents and providing them with accurate information about the child, preparing them for the difficulties that they and the child will encounter; and offering on-going support. (How to Prevent Adoption Disasters, NT Times, 4/15/10). However, there does not appear to be any authority with the power or inclination to force the industry to change.

Intercountry adoptions are regulated by the US Departments of State and Homeland Security, state child welfare agencies, and the governments of the countries which supply the kids. The laws are weak and enforcement sketchy.

This seems unlikely to change. Congress is having difficulty clamping down on the Wall Street practices which brought the economy to its knees. Reining in an industry which “saves children” would be a herculean task. According to The Daily Bastardette, the industry trade group, the Joint Council on International Children's Services has already begun flooding the market with “positive adoption stories” and lining up supporters. When the government has made even feeble efforts to control abuses in adoption in the past, adoption agencies, many operating under the banner of Christ, unleashed an army of prospective adoptive parents to bang on Congressional doors and yammer about bureaucratic red tape preventing their child from joining his American family (albeit they may never have laid eyes on “their child”).

Federal and state officials have shown little ability to respond to even the worst cases of corruption and abuse. The United States Attorney in Salt Lake City allowed Scott and Karen Banks to plead guilty to misdemeanors and receive probation for a massive fraud involving Samoan children which we wrote about here. The Pennsylvania adoption agency Reaching Out Thru International Adoption which placed Masha Allen with pedophile Mathew Mancusco is still in business.

As long as demand exceeds supply, increasing regulation, even if politically possible, is unlikely to have a significant impact. We need only to look at the drug trade where tough laws and billions spent on enforcement has not made a dent. Attempting to impose more regulation over the adoption industry will simply result in a moving cascade of countries using adoption to fill their coffers and empty their orphanages. Where Angelina and Madonna tread, others are sure to follow. As long as there is a buck to be made, someone is there to make it. Congress could take a bite out of that buck, however, by limiting the $12,150 Adoption Tax Credit to adoptions from American foster homes but that’s as unlikely as Congress restoring the estate tax to its pre-Bush level.

The best approach for those wishing to curtail abuse in intercountry adoptions would be an “Adopt America” campaign, encouraging those wanting to “form their family through adoption” to look to their state’s child welfare agency.

An encouraging note is that the demand for foreign children may be waning. International adoptions have declined from a high of 22,990 in 2004 to 12,753 in 2009. Of course, some of this may be fallout from the poor economy. It may also be that as cases of corruption are reported and adoptive parents admit publicly that they cannot handle their kids, fewer people are willing to adopt children from overseas. The Artyom Savelyev case has caused more adoptive parents to speak up, dispelling fantasies about international adoption.

The other side is as Harvard Law Professor Elizabeth Bartholet argues, that reducing foreign adoptions “punishes more children, denying them their best chance to escape institutions into the adoptive homes that are generally available only internationally.” Restricting adoptions because of the Artyom Savelyev case would “ignore the larger story about child tragedy and related policy lessons. That story has to do with the systemic abuse that victimizes the millions of children in institutions worldwide.”

While we at FMF do not want to see children abused or languishing in institutions, we recognize that adopting a few thousand of these children each year does nothing for the millions who are not chosen. In fact these happy adoption stories damage children who are too old, too disabled, or too dark by diverting attention from them. Systemic abuse requires systemic solutions. Money spent on bringing children to the US is better spent on relief organizations like those we’ve written about in India and Ecuador. Finally, of course, foreign governments need to step up and protect their children.


  1. IA won't be leashed in until (1) profit is taken out of adoption and (2) (more important) USians stop living the myth that children make one "complete" and you can't be fulfilled without them. That' wont' happen because it would lead to the destruction of the corporate state.

  2. Sigh...First, I have to agree. Foreign adoption is wrong. It is wrong for a myriad of reasons, the most compelling is the abuse, neglect, deaths and disruptions that occur.

    However, I still do not believe in adoption as a response in the welfare system.

    "The best approach for those wishing to curtail abuse in intercountry adoptions would be an “Adopt America” campaign, encouraging those wanting to “form their family through adoption” to look to their state’s child welfare agency."

    It will move the problem back within the US borders, true. But what about all those parents out there that are fighting to keep their kids, right here in the US, against a system that is designed to take children from their homes.

    Children who after being taken from their homes are then traumatized more by being placed with supposedly safe and trained foster parents who, more often that not are abusers.

    Then of course there is the other issue - there are not nearly enough toddlers or infants in foster care to take care of the demand Americans have been making of the adoption industry - and an infertile couple with just enough money, they do not want a child that is over 3 years old - they want a little mini-me - and think that this is the way to do it.

    So, the number of children taken from young mothers that are part of the system through no fault of their own, as foster children themselves more often than not. (and every state that I have checked on so far can and does remove custody from the young mother who is a foster child or ward of the state - every state - without notice to the mother and it is condoned by the court system).

    This proposal is not acceptable - not ever. There are more women out there who want babies than who are willing to help a child that is in the system and who is not going to be adoptable. They want little zygotes that will be what they want, not a broken one.

    Tragedy is what adoption is made of - when are we going to face that? Adoption should occur when there is absolutely no possibility of return to parents, or any other blood relative - as in they are all dead or totally incapable.

    Adoption should never occur because someone is infertile - in fact infertile couples should have to go through a battery of psychological testing and therapy before ever even being considered as prospective adoptive parents.

    Adoption should never profit anyone - not the lawyers, agencies, in-between, doctors - absolutely no one!

    Adoption should be done in such a way that if there is a child that meets all the criteria, all of it, that is available for adoption, regardless of age, this child should be placed for adoption on a list and when their name is brought up, they should be first choice. No one should be out there shopping as they do now. It should be just like when you have your own kid, what you get is what you get.

    All this insanity....never ending lunacy.

  3. Both foreign and domestic adoptions are full of corruptive practices. If murderers, pedophiles, drug addicts, and psychopaths can pass "home studies" then they are just a joke and don't really protect children to make sure they are getting a safe home.

    A lot of adult adoptees who have been horribly abused by our adopters will tell you that abuse is RAMPANT in adoptive families.

    Why doesn't our government require psychological exams and background checks for prospective adopters? Because it would slow the MARKET down. Our government's hands are stained with the blood and tears of adopted persons sold to be the toys and punching bags of unstable or just plain evil people.

  4. The answer to the terrible corruption and problems in international adoption is not really more domestic adoption out of foster care.

    Many older children out of foster care in the US are just as traumatized, "damaged", and likely to have serious emotional problems as children adopted out of orphanages internationally, and pushing them into adoption to anyone who will take them to get them off the state's hands is not really the answer.

    These children need just as much patience and special services and attention as kids from overseas, but often do not get it as standards are lower, not higher, for who gets hard to place children.

    As Lori said, it just moves the problem around, although the majority of kids in US foster care are older and not the babies of young unwed mothers, but older children whose families really are seriously dysfunctional. Neither domestic nor international adoption and child welfare are easily fixed nor simple.

    I have been reading all too many scary things about adoption disruptions both from foster care and from international adoption. One thing many of these have in common is that the adopters were religious fanatics of the fundamentalist Christian sort, and "God told them" to adopt, even though they already had too many kids.

    They get in over their heads, then the bail out, either pushing their kid back to the state, or even more sinister, trying to find like-minded crazies on the internet willing to take damaged goods. Swap and trade bad kids with your friends!

    Personally I think those who think the voices in their head are God need to be in a mental hospital. And they certainly should not be trusted to adopt any kid.

    And no, I do not mean people who attend a Presbyterian, Episcopal, Methodist, Lutheran, Catholic or any mainline church every week. I am talking about the fringe crazies who believe in personal revelation for every aspect of their lives, often homeschoolers, who isolate their kids from others and mainstream life. There are way too many of these in adoptionland today, and they are the backbone of NCFA and other right wing adoption promoters. It is truly scary and disgusting.

  5. Talk about adoption disruption...I knew a guy from college who adopted a son then had a son, then got a divorce...and guess what? He told me that the ex -wife did not want her; and he said: : I knew I couldn't handle being a single dad--how was I going to do that?

    So the adoption was "disrupted." Father said: It was a terrible day....I thought...terrible for whom?

  6. The problems of international adoption are just the problems of adoption - writ large.


  7. International adoption will never be fixed until it is recognized as not only baby selling but human trafficking. Right now, it is not recognized as the latter because it's not considered "exploitation." It will take lots of people speaking up about adoption=exploitation before our voices are heard above those of contented (or desperate-for-a-baby) industry customers.

    I wrote a new blog post about this: Adoption as the Exploitation of Children

  8. You are in error that these children are seen as coming with "less baggage" than children who are in the U.S. Quite the contrary, those who adopt internationally know that there are much greater risks of all kids of developmental and emotional issues. However, with hundreds of thousands of children in orphanages in Eastern Europe a lot of adoptive parents, like myself, saw it as a "win win" situation to parent a child who did not otherwise have a parent, both for the child and the adoptive family. The overwhelming majority of parents adopting from Russia according to polls are very satisfied, even if their children need extra intervention in school (a common issue). This case is sad, but does not represent the typical situation. I continue to baffled by how a group that seems to resent having their babies stolen by a corrupt industry domestically (from what I read this is the view on this website) could be against people adopting children who are already abandoned. I am very glad we adopted from Russia, though our son had some developmental delays. The fact that this family failed to turn to resources available to them and took such drastic action borders on insane, and is certainly probably criminal,

  9. p.s. I am not a Christian fundamentalist, and God did not tell me to adopt my son. I am astounded by all the gross generalizations on this site. As I have said before, go to a Russian orphanage for yourself and look around, and tell me that these children are better off warehoused as human chattel than growing up in a family. I am saddened when crazy or stupid people adopt children and do not treasure them, but crazy and stupid people give birth to children every day and do not treasure them. Right now international adoption is one solution that is helping some of these children. I agree that changing the Russian economy and Russian attitudes so that children are not abandoned by the thousands would be the best solution, but in the meantime these children need homes.

  10. Dear Pru:
    We do not believe children are better off in Russian orphanages, which from what I've read, are pretty awful and the cause of some of the problems of older children. We understand the need for adoption in many cases. We are against the rush to adoption today that squeezes babies out of every possible source, and in the process exploits poor women and turns baby selling via supposedly reputable agencies into a corrupt practice. Check the blog for links to stories by E.J.Graff. As for the adoptive families that do all they can for these children, we commend them.

  11. Thank you for saying that Lorraine. I truly appreciate it. And for the record, there are psychological exams and criminal background checks (something one commenter stated was needed) for people who adopt children. I even had to submit a diagram of our home with a fire escape plan from both floors to the Russian government as part of our home study. Of course this type of scrutiny doesn't stop bad people from becoming parents, but there are bad parents out there who are biological, who didn't have to undergo any scrutiny to have a child. Bad parenting is an "equal opportunity" proposition not limited to the adoptive community.

  12. One story about Russian orphanages and the dreams these children have of finding a home (a relatively good orphanage it appears):


  13. Scott and Karen Banks passed a homestudy???????? Who is this Jenni Mowery anyway, is she licensed?

    Monday, February 22, 2010
    Call for Full Investigation into Amelya Frances Kirkpatrick's Adoption in Utah

    According to a court document obtained by PEAR, on February 9, 2010, Scott and Karen Banks, former owners of adoption agency Focus on Children, were allowed to adopt another child, originally from China. The Banks were indicted on 135 Federal counts in 2007 for a fraudulent adoption scheme in Samoa. In 2009, they pled guilty to Aiding and Abetting the Improper Entry of an Alien in a plea deal made with the US Attorney's office in Utah. They were given a sentence of five years probation during which time they are forbidden to participate in the adoption business and are required to make payment into a trust for the victims.

    The recent adoption occurred after evidence of their illegal activities with their Samoan adoption program were put on record in Utah courts. Also supplied was information regarding the Banks two previously adopted Romanian children.

    According to numerous media sources and their now-adult Romanian daughter's own affidavit, this child and her sibling were flown to Samoa by Scott Banks and left without legal documentation in 2000, leaving these adoptees in a legal limbo. In addition, according to an affidavit given by their caregiver in Samoa, the Banks have had no contact with either child since their arrival, nor have they supported the children in any way since abandoning them in Samoa.

    Furthermore, a third child of the Banks, suffering from cerebral palsy and also adopted from Romania, has been alleged in various documents to have been severely neglected in their home. This child was placed in a group home in Utah.

    PEAR believes that anyone convicted of crimes involving children should be barred from the possibility of adopting any other children. We also believe that any parents convicted of or with a history of legitimate allegations of child abuse and neglect should be barred from adopting children.

    PEAR opposes any practice that does not protect the rights of the child to live a life free from abuse and neglect with qualified and loving adoptive parents. To not hold these rights paramount in an adoption proceeding undermines every moral and ethical standard that each child deserves.

    We are sponsoring a petition to be sent to the Governor of Utah asking his office to open an investigation into how and why this family was allowed to adopt another child given their dubious history. If you agree with the statements made please take a moment to sign the petition.

    The petition can be found at http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/utahadoption/

    Measure passed by PEAR’s board 2/19/2010



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