' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: The Global Trade in Babies Continues to Boom

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Global Trade in Babies Continues to Boom

"First of all, the global baby trade is a market. Adoptive families pay a lot of money -- to the sending country, adoption agencies, and lawyers. For many years, South Korea was the leading sending country, and the hard currency it earned from international adoptions helped the country recover from the Korean War's devastation.

"Like any market, the unscrupulous find plenty of ways to make money. A child-buying scandal that erupted in Cambodia about 10 years ago drew wide media coverage. The European Union pressured Romania to place a ban on international adoptions, largely as a result of a report to the European Parliament by Lady Emma Nicholson. "Impoverished families were coerced and deceived into giving up their children who were then effectively sold on to Western couples under the guise of international adoption," Nicholson argued in a 2004 Guardian article."--by John Feffer, Co-director of Foreign Policy in Focus published at the Huffington Post.  
We don't simply like to link other articles or reprint them whole here (a violation of property rights) but the piece from which this is taken ought to be required reading for everyone considering adopting a child, especially a child from a foreign country. Furthermore, adoptive parents or prospective adoptive parents who stumble upon First Mother Forum are often shocked by our comparing adoption to a business industry subject to market influences, and so we will continue to publicize our sources.

But those who deny that the baby business, or The Stork Market, is alive and thriving to feed the market for babies in American and elsewhere are covering their senses with blinders. Books such as the recent Baby We Were Meant for Each Other, by an author such as NPR's Scott Simon, who was able to readily publicize the glories of adopting from China, and the continuing spate of celebrity adoptions, further push the demand for babies from wherever they can be bought. Write in "international adoption memoirs" at Amazon and up pops numerous accounts of how-to-do-it, and how great it is, and I suppose, all leave you feeling with the glow that the author is doing something good in the world. Just yesterday in the supermarket I stumbled upon a cover story about Eva Longoria from Desperate Housewives. She is divorcing--but there is a happy ending: Longoria is going to fill the void in her life by adopting a baby. Great. Lose a husband? Get someone else's baby to fill the void in your life. But I digress.

The Stork Market: America's Multi-Billion Dollar Unregulated Adoption IndustryGuatemala, which we have covered in detail in the past, was once the largest per-capita source of children to be adopted, and the country's own government has found irrefutable evidence of baby-snatching, and sometimes even killing the parents to make the baby "available" for adoption. The children were handed over to government-run agencies for foreign adoption, and the Americans and Europeans who adopted them thought they had clean hands--no back -alley dealings, right?--and were doing a good thing, that is, saving a child. The reality is so far from the truth: instead, these adoptive parents had blood on their hands. As Feffer writes:
"The baby market is subject to the same neocolonial distortions that affect other commodities. Imagine a couple from Vietnam visiting the United States to adopt a white baby because they want to give the child a more spiritually rich life and save it from an existence poisoned by Wii, reality TV, and KFC. With rare exceptions, it's the poor countries that supply babies to the rich countries.

"Sometimes, the rich just swoop in and take from the poor. In Sierra Leone, after the widespread amputations that took place during the civil war, some staff of U.S. charities persuaded amputee parents to give up their amputee children for adoption "in a manner that seemed to combine aspects of bribery and kidnapping," writes Philip Gourevitch in The New Yorker. After Haiti's earthquake, the New Life Children's Refuge attempted to transport 33 alleged orphans out of the country to place with American parents. Not only did the transfer qualify as smuggling, since the Baptist activists didn't acquire any documentation from the Haitian side, but one-third of the children weren't even orphans. One child thought she was going to a summer camp."
At the same time that poor countries are being looted of their children, the great majority of the world's populations that are not even replacing themselves are in low-income countries. The trading of fertility rites on the open market--combined with the aggressive marketing of international adoption agencies and adoption advocates such as the Christian World Adoptions and other organizations that urge the end to the UNICEF 's recent statement that children first and foremost belong with their original families--could lead to an even more radical shrinkage of countries already below the replacement rate in such places as Moldova, Thailand, Lebanon, and Vietnam. (2.5 to 3.3 birth per woman is considered a replacement rate in non industrialized countries.)

International adoption is a sick system. It might be better called "child laundering," a phrase used by adoptive father and legal scholar David Smolin. He found that his two girls adopted from India had been stolen from their parents. I often feel like we at First Mother Forum are only putting our fingers in a dike after it burst. International adoption is everywhere and seen by many couples as a way to "build a family" without considering the full implications, and certainly not considering what the wholesale exchange of children from one culture to another means to them, or their birth/first/natural mothers and fathers.

But we are not going to stop. There are children who do need homes and families; they are in foster care right here in America. --lorraine
If you leave a comment at Huff Po, please copy and leave it here too. The more you write, the more others may read.

And for a read about how some international adoptees feel about who they are, read O Solo Mama's blog: "You Are Who You Think You Are." O Solo Mama is the adoptive mother of an pre-teen from China who frequently is a welcome commenter here. She gets it.


  1. Just because a child is adopted by a two parent church going couple does not mean that the child is better off than they are with their OWN PARENTS.

    I have a friend who was adopted into those very circumstan­ces and she was raped by her adoptive father regularly from the age of 8 to 17 or so.

    Do you think she was better off with her adoptive familiy?

    If adoption is truly the best thing for the child, then why don't you give up your children to a deserving couple? I'm sure we can find someone in better circumstan­ces (there's always someone in better curcumstan­ces), so you should give them up to give them a better future.

    Your perspectiv­e is logical and sane only when viewed through the eyes of western privledge. The adoption agencies have long abandoned the principle of finding families for children that need them. Now they operate under the idea of finding children for parents that want them. How sad.

    Also, thank you, Mr. Feffer, for not propagatin­g the "magic of internatio­nal adoption" myth.

  2. My first son's first adoptive father left right after he was adopted for Korea while in the Army. He did not return to the U.S. from Korea until 2 years ago with his new younger Korean wife. While over in Korea he earned a PhD from a South Korean university. So when I've emailed him the First Mother blogs about Korean adoptions, his immediate response was that now matter what the babies and children were much better off here in the U.S. than staying in wretched conditions in South Korea. He justified his comments to my pointing out the U.S. not ratifying the UN Rights of the Child as being ignorant about foreign living conditions for infants and young children which indeed I have not experiended first hand like he had.

  3. Karen,

    Your son's adoptive father doesn't know what he is talking about. I was in South Korea in 2006. It is not a poor country. Of course, there are pockets of poverty as there are in the US. I saw many fine neighborhoods, new construction going on all over, upscale shopping malls, a fantastic public transit system, attractive recreational facilities, and so on.

    In the decades following the Korean War, Korean adoptions were related to poverty and discrimination against persons who were not "full-blooded" Koreans. Today, adoptions stem primarily from discrimination against single mothers (Korea is where the US was in the 60's), preference for male children over female children, and the profitability of adoption.

    Korean birth mothers are working to reduce adoptions and help single mothers keep their babies. In fact, they have recently inquired about becoming affiliated with CUB. Check out the Korean Unwed Mothers Support Group website, kumsn.org.

  4. We had a visitor from S. Korea a couple of months ago stating that new mothers get 10,000 towards housing costs.

    It is too much of an industry. It is so important to put pressure on the UN, educate people on the consequences of adoption, and to work on helping new parents or parents in general.



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