' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: Utah agency places cast-off international adoptees

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Utah agency places cast-off international adoptees

The more I read about international adoption, the more I become convinced that it does far more harm than good. The twin desires of Americans to have children and help those in need have created a huge and profitable industry, rife with corruption. It destroys families and diverts dollars which could otherwise help poor children to stay in their own countries. It allows Americans to ignore the over 100,000 American children in foster care who would benefit from being adopted.

And it turns out that many of the children who do come to the U.S., about 10,000 in the past year, are worse off. Contrary to what Americans expect, these children are often nothing like Dondi, the dream child adopted from Italy as a five-year-old after World War II by a U.S. soldier. Dondi, of course, was only a character in the comic strip of the same name which ran from 1955 to 1986. No, real foreign adoptees may suffer from RAD, PTSD, ODD, or whatever label  shrinks put on a child who is a holy terror.

The result? Some children are abused, beaten--even killed. Others are passed on to other families, as author Joyce Maynard did with the two Ethiopian girls she adopted, and blogger Anita Tedaldi did with a boy from South American. Another distraught woman, Torry Hansen, just put the boy on a plane and sent him back to Russia. Wasatch International Adoptions (WIA), located in adoption-friendly Utah, has another solution. 

In addition to arranging for adoptions of foreign children beginng in 1992, WIA now offers re-cycled kids through its Second Chance program, placing both rejected foreign and domestic children in new adoptive homes. One of the five children featured on its website, Janna, is being offered for adoption for the third time. WIA also offers closed domestic infant adoptions although if the mother asks, she may get a few pictures and "limited contact" with her child. Mothers-to-be should eschew these arrangements and choose an agency offering fully open adoptions instead. 

WIA charges $3,000 for Second Chance children, assuredly far less than for first time children for whom international adoption agencies typically charge around $30,000. "Second-hand" adoptions may be a new source of money now that the supply of primo foreign children (baby girls form China for example) is drying up.

WIA’s website doesn’t say whether it also charges relinquishing adoptive parents for taking children off their hands. The alternative for some parents would be to pay large sums for “treatment” facilities such as The Ranch for Kids Project in Montana which uses a "structured environment" to treat adopted kids "experiencing difficulties in their families." The Ranch may not be around for long; Russian officials want it shut down, claiming children are abused. Montana regulators have refused to license the Ranch, citing safety violations.

I’m tempted to go on mocking WIA, cynical as I am about those who profit from international adoption, but reading the bios of these children makes me want to weep. In fairness to WIA, it doesn’t pull any punches in describing the children and their needs. Since many of the families who adopted these children already had biological children, it’s a safe bet that most of them took the children for humanitarian reasons with the expectation that, with enough love and financial support, these children would assimilate. How wrong they were! Here’s summary of the children being offered through WIA:
Valerie, 14 was adopted from Russia at 9. She has not done well with her adoptive mother and is currently living in a girls’ home. Because of behavioral problems, her adoptive parents have moved her from a public school to an online school.  
Lucas, six, was adopted at 18 months from Liberia into a family with six biological children, and two other unrelated children who were adopted at the same time. All three of the adopted children have had a hard time adjusting to life in the U.S. are each being placed into new homes.  
Hannah, 8, was also adopted from Liberia at two. She "has been diagnosed with RAD [reactive attachment disorder] and ODD [oppositional defiant disorder]. She has had five months of counseling. The sessions were limited because she would not cooperate. She is physically aggressive towards younger children in the home.  
Janna, 7, was adopted from Russia at four. This adoption disrupted because she “didn’t do well” with a sister, a biological child in the home. She was then adopted by a single mom who had a disabled daughter. Janna “seems to want domination over the daughter.” Janna will probably need mental health care.  
Victor, 11, was adopted from Russia three years ago, along with his biological sister. The family is keeping the sister, but disrupting Victor’s adoption because he has had a “difficult time.” He “has diagnoses of PTSP [post traumatic stress disorder] and Mood Disorder.”
These children should never have been taken from their home countries. Meanwhile, over 100,000 U.S. kids are waiting adoptive homes. While they also come with baggage, they speak English and are comfortable with American customs, food, holidays, manners, and the like. States do not charge adoption fees, and provide subsidizes and supportive services. Profiles of children waiting for permanent homes are on the Adopt U.S. Kids website. 

To help foreign children, donate to your favorite overseas agency. Check out Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn to learn about remarkable agencies doing great things for girls in the most difficult of circumstances.
Lorraine here Monday morning:  Sara, a reader, sent us this link a while back, about a foreign adoption (Ethiopian) gone terrible wrong. Read it an weep for the children. The girl is permanently blinded in one eye:
Woman who returned Russian boy must pay child support
Ranch for Kids
Like Russian critics, Montana regulators want to shut down Ranch for Kids
Adopt US Kids

From FMF:
Joyce Maynard's adoption "disruption"
Returning a Child: It Happens More than You Think
Foreign Adoptions Aren't Plunging Fast Enough
Reproductive exploitation--one more way to abuse women

Half the Sky "...a brilliantly argued case for investing in the health and autonomy of women worldwide. More girls have been killed in the last fifty years, precisely because they were girls, than men were killed in all the wars of the twentieth century, they write, detailing the rampant gendercide in the developing world, particularly in India and Pakistan. Far from merely making moral appeals, the authors posit that it is impossible for countries to climb out of poverty if only a fraction of women (9% in Pakistan, for example) participate in the labor force."--Publisher's Weekly

and...The Stork Market: America's Multi-Billion Dollar Unregulated Adoption Industry "...well-integrated mix of approaches--part analysis, part case studies from the front lines, part hand-book, part up-to-date law and policy review is a testament to Riben's powerful and enduring commitment to the rights and needs of vulnerable women and their children. Riben's book is a clear, bright blueprint for change." --Rickie Solinger, historian and author, Wake up Little Susie


  1. Heifer International is also a good place to give if you want to help "widows and orphans" as so many of these evangelical Christians think they are doing by adopting. Heifer gives animals to families to help them be self-sufficient.

    You really make a good point about U.S. foster care too. Now these disrupted international adoptions are simply adding to that number. People who think they might be up to adopting an older child or one with special needs ought to be looking in the domestic system first.

  2. This scares me. On the one hand I see the need to do something for adoptees whose adoptions are disrupted. But on the other hand, I think it has become FAR too easy for adopters to give up when the going gets tough. With resources like this available, will it encourage more of them to say, "this is too hard, I didn't sign up for this, somebody else is available to take care of this kid"?

    So much for "forever families".

  3. A friend of mine has adopted a child who was dumped off into a mental health facility here in the states after being adopted overseas. He has no illusions about love and finances and works mostly on helping her adapt and grow without too much expectation on her regarding affection. I think this is where most of these families stumble. They want and NEED these kids to love them in return and most of them just aren't capable of it.

  4. I cringe whenever I see the term "forever family." Like eternal love, it may be a worthwhile goal but we adoptees KNOW that families aren't forever or we wouldn't fookin' be here in the first place fer chrissake! Don't try to BS us any more. It is coded in our makeup that love is conditional, so the more people claim they love us the more we suspect and the more we will test that bond. We know that the boat home sank, so just accept that we are emotional cripples and we'll try to get by if you don't demand the kind of love back that you get from bio kids. We can love in our own fashion, but it's a kinda deformed version. Yes we want to love and be loved, but our first bonding experience didn't go too well.

  5. Tory Hansen was ordered to pay child suppoort. The very LEAST we can do for these kids is his adopters who cut and run with paying. Doing so might also might also make the do-gooders think lomg and hard before t5akign a child out of his cultue an dinstead send money to support orphanges and villages in need.

    The best thing we could do is soemthing I recommened decades ago: stop all IA until every American child finds a home, which will be never.

  6. What about the young International adoptee's
    that have been killed by their adopters. They
    are brought here and for whatever reason can't
    fulfill what they are used for and killed in a varity
    Of ways. These kids have no chance either they
    satisfy or they die.
    Adoption all about saving babies.

  7. As being adopted and did run for some while a foundation by adult adoptees I am not suprised at all about the issue brought up by the writer.

    Not long ago there was that terrible disaster in Haiti, you remember?? The Netherlands(europe) was the first one to organize a "baby-bridge" from Port-o-Prince to Amsterdam Airport. This flight did contain kids who did NOT have yet the papers to be adopted. some were on the list but NOT final yet. Legally speaking; their custody were still in hands of the Haitian court.

    However, we=Dutch government AND adoption agencies didn't bother about that. The chldren without the final signature were transported to the Netherlands.

    With some much commotion around the earthquake and so on and the fact that they were (unvoluntary)alone made this whole situation like: a melting future disaster.

    Within 6 months the first Dutch adoptive parents started to complain about the "difficult" adotped children....although we as adult adoptive activists told from day 1 on to the government and the adoption agencies: DON'T take these children away from Haiti.

    Our reasons given to them:
    1) Most of the kids do not have the adoption status.
    2) Legal cusody in hands of Haitian court and not in the Dutch court. Therefore you cannot "steal" the kids from a foreign country.
    3) These kids have experienced so much recent stress by the earthquake, they should be repatriated outside the capital city be be with their own people.
    4) The "adopted" kids do not have the personal papers with them. Who will identify them? Is "Anna" really the "Anna" where we looking for?

    Etc etc etc....

    European countries are as bad as USA. To me NO difference at all!

    Adult adoptee | Europe

  8. Well, don't aim too high, international adoption has its uses, but domestic adoption is slightly better.
    The least thing you could do, is encouraging the US to stop playing both sides of the field, either the export or the import has to stop.

  9. d28Bob:

    Your words are harsh and sad but unfortunately true. I hear of so many troubled adoptions and difficult kids and adoptees who have scant contact with their "forever families" that I mentally roll my eyes when I hear "forever family."

    And the Anonymous who says he has a friend takes kids to help them adapt and grow without too much expectation has a friend who is on the right track. That ought to be the expectations of families who adopt older kids, kids from troubled backgrounds, kids who didn't "fit" into other families.

  10. Sara, a reader, send us this link in late October. Another foreign adoption gone terrible wrong.

    Adoption saga ends with charges for Franklin Park couple

    "They are scheduled for a preliminary hearing Tuesday, accused of starving their 6-year-old son and leaving him with lesions from being kept in urine-soaked clothing for long periods of time. The 18-month-old girl will likely be blinded in one eye and paralyzed after suffering abusive head trauma. Their attorney, Christopher Capozzi, declined to comment.

    The two biological children were unharmed."

    Forever family? Yeah, right.

  11. Eye opening reading. Adopting from 3rd world countries seems to have become a new commandment for many fundamental Christian families. I have followed several blogs of such potential adopters, and they just do not do their homework on what is entailed in adopting children from another culture. They think the God will bless them and everything will be sweetness and light. Many of them are also followers of Michael and Debi Pearl, who advocate strict training of babies and children, including using plumbing line to snap across their butts or legs. It's a dangerous mix of strong discipline (abuse is more like it) and a belief that God is on their side.

  12. Editorial about the latest headline abuse case: http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/opinion/tony-norman/adoption-gone-awry-is-a-troubling-mystery-658718/

    What I don't understand is why children with families ("asked permission from the birth families") that at least have some involvement with them are sent for adoption. In many countries, the children sent for adoption have been given over to orphanages because the parents wanted a boy instead of another girl, or the stigma placed on single mothers was so tremendous that some women felt they had no choice but keep their child a secret and send him or her for adoption. (I'm not saying that this is a good thing!) But I hear that many relatives in Haiti and Ethiopia do visit children in orphanages and have ongoing relationships with them. Why are these children sent for adoption?

  13. As the adoptive parent of an internationally adopted son, it's perhaps not surprising that I have a somewhat different perspective on international adoption.

    Providing money to an international children's fund may feed, educate, clothe and/or provide medical care for a child. It may or may not provide a parent.

    This is not to say that international adoption is a means of addressing these issues on a large scale. It is an option only on the individual level.

    Certainly there are abuses and/or cases in which an individual or family should not have been permitted to adopt. That applies across the board, domestically nad internationally. It applies equally to fostering and, some would say, to bearing or siring children.

    Anecdotes may be helpful in raising conscsiousness, particularly if one seeks to end an activity rather than to prevent its abuse or improper use. They are of little use in designing remedial measures, however. For that, one must have sound data.

  14. Didn't actress Mia Farrow speak out against scooping up the Haitian children for adoption?

    Good comment, d28bob

  15. James Hamilton: I respect your position. However, EJ Graff has written extensively and with documentation about large scale problems with international adoption, and we have in the past posted many blogs citing her work. I will find a few of the stories now and post them as links to the current blog. You may find them yourself by just putting in the name of a particular country in the upper left corner search function, and they will come up.

    I do disagree with you that anecdotes are not telling. When they occur with certain regularity as we have seen, they are the story.

  16. Reader Anon asks "But I hear that many relatives in Haiti and Ethiopia do visit children in orphanages and have ongoing relationships with them. Why are these children sent for adoption?"

    Reader Hamilton states: "Providing money to an international children's fund may feed, educate, clothe and/or provide medical care for a child. It may or may not provide a parent."

    The sad truth is that often the parents didn't give their children up for adoption. They placed them in an orphanage because the parents were poor. The orphanage, in cahoots with an adoption agency or middleman, placed the children without their parents' consent. Bribes to local officials and forged papers is all it took.

    There are countless stories in the media about foreign adoptees going back to their countries and finding their first mothers. Invariably, the adoptees have learned they were snatched from their mothers or their mothers were conned into giving them up, often told that their children were going to the US for school and would be brought back.

    Many adoptive parents have gone back to their children's country and learned that the child they thought was abandoned was actually kidnapped. Some of these parents are advocates for ending international adoption because of the corruption.

    I doubt that better screening of prospective adoptive parents will do anything to stop the abuse. These abusive parents often appear to be model people.

    In any event, as long as big bucks can be made shipping these children to the US, adoption agencies have little incentive to work harder to find telltale signs of possible future abuse on the part of prospective adoptive parents.

  17. First of all, OMG Dondi! I had completely forgotten that comic strip but used to read it every Sunday in the NY Daily News as a kid. Funny,my vague memory was that Dondi was a Korean adoptee after the Korean War, they were big in the 50s.

    Also agreeing with Elizabeth McBride about the dangers of extreme religious Fundamentalists adopting internationally because "God told them to" no matter how many kids they are already overburdened by, and then applying the kind of harsh discipline she describes to already traumatized children. The final step for these kids, when they escape alive, is to be consigned to one of these "bargain bin" re-adoption agencies, as damaged "as is" merchandise. Since many of these operate in the same religious fundamentalist universe, there is scant chance of the kids not being taken in by more people with a similar "God will work it all out" mindset, and the harm continues. Horrible.

    In my opinion the answer is NOT to urge these people to adopt domestically, but to have more realistic and stringent controls on who is fit to adopt at all. The same kinds of awful things have been done to "difficult" children adopted out of foster care. These standards should be universal and not set by any particular religion or agency.

  18. James Hamilton wrote:"Certainly there are abuses and/or cases in which an individual or family should not have been permitted to adopt.....and, some would say, to bearing or siring children."

    And herein lies the problem. It is not possible to compare adoptee abuse to the fact that some children who remain with their bio-parents are also abused. There is no comparison and misses the point.

    Adopted children are PURPOSEFULLY placed into an adoptive family to get a BETTER life. There are supposed to be oversights, a thorough investigation of prospective adoptive parents, home visits, legal procedures, etc. No child who is INTENTIONALLY placed in an adoptive home should suffer abuse ever. You may want to look into Mirah Riben's excellent books where you will learn that there is as much, if not more, abuse in adoptive families as their is in bio-families.

    I have heard this argument too many times that because there are kids who are abused by their bio-parents that this somehow rationalizes adoptee abuse.

  19. One of the problems is that once adopted, children are "as if" born to their adopters.In the US once an adoption is finalized tghere is no follow up so parents canb riase and "discipline" as they see fit, uneil a kid is found horribly abused or dead.

    Even the follow-ups on foster kids are very inadequte as wel all know all too well.

    And yes, as Robin said so well...it is absoluetly worse when people seek out and obtain other peoples' children, when they are intended to "rescue" and "save" said children, that they did not aquire by accident...it is far, far worse than when natural parents abuse.

  20. It never ceases to amaze me how horrible humans can be to one another.

  21. maryanne,

    You're correct Dondi was Korean. He was also Italian and Vietnamese. According to Wikipedia, he was originally Italian and a World War II orphan. The script was updated in the 1960s to make him Korean and in the 1970s to make him Vietnamese. He was also just referred to as an adopted child. Truly a true generic adoptee.

  22. As an adoptee and the adoptive mom of two older children (adopted at ages 7.5 & 8.5 years), I have to agree an earlier commenter that my perspective is different. Mainly the difference is that in my thinking there is no "one size fits all" regarding adoption in general or international adoption in particular. Yes, there are some horror stories involving internationally adopted children. But in balance consider that had I not adopted my daughters, they would have been turned out to the streets in a major city at age 16. There was absolutely no aid, funding or anything else that would have prevented this from happening. International adoption gave them better life and a chance at a future that did not involve destitution and likely prostitution or suicide that are so common.

  23. Jane - You mean they kept changing Dondi's background story to match current circumstances. Wow, that's so... adoption.

  24. I want to echo the US kids have needs too! Don't forget about US teens in foster care! There are many that need a loving home and could benefit from good parenting.

    There is also a foster program that is through Catholic Community Services which helps refugee children and teens from other countries escape to America and be placed in foster care homes. This can be a great way to expose your children to diversity and model tolerance and acceptance. There are only 14 states that have a program, but it's worth looking into!

  25. Hi, Janna's 3rd mom here. I can tell you that after 3 years Janna is happy in our home. We also know Janna's 2nd adoptive mom. She desperately loves this child enough to find a family who could parent Janna. Janna has several severe mental illnesses, and I am not just talking about ADHD and PTSD. It takes special parenting skills and a huge team of professionals to parent Janna. I love this child as if I had given birth to her, but I know very few parents who would know how to parent a child who just a few decades prior would have most likely been institutionalized. Please understand that unless you have been involved in adoption dissolution and readoption that it is very hard to understand the "why" behind any of this.



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