' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: The Baby Sellers portrays the dark side of international adoption

Sunday, August 18, 2013

The Baby Sellers portrays the dark side of international adoption

Baby Sellers Movie Photos
Kirstie Alley in The Baby Seller
Prospective adoptive parents who look to other countries to adopt because of a "shortage" of "adoptable infants" here in America, or who do so to avoid those pesky birth mothers who want "open adoptions," will find Lifetime's new movie, The Baby Sellers, unsettling. Premiered last night, the film is an absorbing depiction of the trafficking of infants from around the globe, specifically India and Brazil, to unknowing people who want nothing more than a baby to take home, no questions asked.

The story centers around a government agent (played by Jennifer Finnegan) who sinks her teeth into the trafficking of babies after a bust of one such ring ends with disappointment. She centers her attention on one agency called "Road to Love," run by Carla Huxley, played
convincingly by Kirstie Alley, who shows she can bare some teeth. At orientation sessions with prospective adopters, Huxley shows off her own adopted child who gives a short speech on how lucky she have been rescued by her "Mom," setting the bait. But we already know that Huxley is an evil adoption maven who gets babies wherever they are readily available--India, Brazil are the two counties shown here, as Mexico and other Latin American counties have been shut down. The scenario then, for the prospective adoptive parents, is that they will be "saving" a child from a loveless and poverty-stricken life.

Finnegan pretends to be a prospective adopter who signs up for a trip to India, where she follows the trail of a single baby with a teardrop birth mark on her cheek, a child who was stolen after her father refused to sell her. We never find out how much money actually changes hands, but in India, it probably doesn't have to be much, because there are so many hands to fill with bribes before the babies find their way to the willing pocketbooks and arms of Americans--including the local authorities who don't show up when Finnegan needs them. Because of the corruption, not surprisingly all the paperwork checks out. The babies leave India with their new and ecstatic parents.

There is never a real doubt that Finnegan will find the baby with the teardrop. A single mother, who calls the baby Catherine, will not give her up without a fight--this can't be true about her baby--but Finnegan has the DNA to prove that indeed this baby is one she can prove was stolen. Brilliant film-making The Baby Catchers is not, but it does get its point across: "Who creates this market?" one Indian doctor asks. "People like you coming her and buying our children."

Amen to that. "People like you coming here and buying our children." Adoptive parents of children from around the world are going to at least squirm at that line. 

India is not the only country portrayed supplying babies for a hungry market: Huxley orders a blue-eyed,  blond boy from Brazil, where one is likely to be found, to satisfy a client whose husband cannot relate to an Indian girl. Yes, the baby is found, stolen and sold, his mother is informed that her child died. When a nurse not in on the deal later tells the distraught mother what happened, she tries to get the attention of someone at the American consulate, but she is ignored. "They" are the "consulate," not the Embassy, the young mother is told, and besides, what can "they" do? The mother had turned to the Americans because she knew that the Brazilian authorities will ignore her, and now the Americans do the same. It's not their problem. "The mothers are poor--that's why no one pay attention," says the determined agent as she follows this case. Right again.

By the end of the film, people have died--this is a billion-dollar business, after all--Huxley is brought down but escapes jail, the teardrop baby is returned to her mother, but blue-eyed blond? He'll never know the truth. The film does not let those adopters off easily: you see them holding the baby in bed, the father happy to have a son who will resemble him, if only in coloring. 

Though I am a crier, I was dry-eyed throughout. I know this happens, and I was pleased to see that this film was made. I appreciated the script-writer's sly reference to Brave New World with the choice of Carla Huxley's last name.

The Baby Sellers is an important, timely film that unfortunately will probably not reach many of the audience that it should: people who will do anything to get a child and not investigate thoroughly the ethics of how that child came to be available. The film may cut too close to the bone for many of them. But the fact that is was made, coming close to the timing of The Child Catchers: Rescue, Trafficking, and the New Gospel of Adoption, is a good sign. 

The movie ends with a script about the scope of baby trafficking, a phrase, we note, that people form agencies such as Holt International and adoption promoters (and international adoptive parent) Elizabeth Bartholet abhor in reference to infants. From the Lifetime website:
The global market for child trafficking is over $12 billion a year with over 1.2 million child victims. For the most up to date research on human and infant trafficking, refer to the Trafficking In Persons Report released by the U.S. Department of State in June 2013.

The trafficking of babies from poor countries all over the world is one of the great crimes of our lifetimes. Now and then agencies, such as Christian World Adoption, or women like Laura Silsby, are found out. Silsby, who led a group of ten American Baptists from an Idaho orphan ministry, were arrested at the border of the Dominican Republic attempting to take 33 children out of Haiti after the earthquake in 2010 without proper documentation. International adoption is one big dirty business and flourishes precisely as the movie depicts: because so many Americans--North Americans--want babies and do not want to look too deeply into how they babies end up here. I personally know of children from Guatemala, who ended up here; I also know how deeply corrupt was the baby train getting infants out of the country, and I cannot bear to know these single mothers anymore. I cannot bear to see these children. I wonder what their real story is; I feel that it is likely these children were trafficked.

The question people who go overseas to get a child need to ask themselves: What would you do if you knew the paperwork was likely to be forged, the baby stolen or bought? What would you do if you knew the real parents of the child did not want to give him or her up? What would you do if a willing father wanted to raise his own child?

In this country we know how Matt and Melanie Capobianco answered: Tough luck.--lorraine
Upcoming showings of The Baby Sellers on Lifetime: tonight (Sunday) at 8 p.m.; Monday, Aug. 19 at 12 a.m., and Saturday, Aug. 24 at 6 p.m. Don't forget to set your recorders
Child: U.S. Adoption Agency Bought Me
Laura Silsby, U.S. Missionary Leader, Convicted In Haiti, But Free To Go
Christians work to rescue world's orphans, but obstacles stand in way

International Adoption Advocates Fight Back against decline in adoptions
The Child Catchers exposes the stench of international adoption--and domestic adoption too
Adoptive Parents Decry UNICEF's Humanitarian Position about Adopting Overseas
Abuses in International Adoption: The Lie We Love

The Child Catchers: Rescue, Trafficking, and the New Gospel of Adoption
“Joyce broadens the understanding of adoption's conundrums, not only within the United States, but also internationally, with deep investigations of children from Liberia, Ethiopia, Korea, Rwanda, Haiti and China…Groundbreaking investigative and explanatory reporting.”--Kirkus Reviews. Order by clicking on the title or book jacket photo. 


  1. Some ending, Lorraine.

    It doesn't matter if the children are from poor countries or not, does it? Some adoptive parents want what they want, the children (and their parents) be damned.

  2. What I have noticed is that usually adopters will become very scrupulous about these things....after they have theirs. It couldn't have been THEIR child. THEIR child was abandoned/an orphan/in an orphanage/rescued from a rock/etc. But all those OTHER adopters and paps should be ashamed!

  3. The very first thing to grab my eye is that Kirstie Alley, who stars in this film, is an adoptive mother. During her 1983-1997 marriage to actor Parker Stevenson, the couple adopted William True and Lillie Price--domestically, it would appear, from the photographs I've seen of them. Alley reportedly had a miscarriage and a stillbirth AFTER adopting. The couple reportedly has shared custody since divorcing.

    So I'm wondering how she could wrap her head around this role as convincingly as you say... did Alley tell herself, "Oh, these are dodgy international adoptions, not like MINE..."?

    Thanks for the heads-up on the film, Lorraine.

  4. Sandy: You are so right! That doesn't really come up in The Baby Sellers because the woman who has the baby with the give-away teardrop birthmark immediately gets it that the agent is talking about "her" baby, Catherine. And you don't see her again; the agent has DNA and so knows she can prove whose child this is. As for the couple with the blond boy from Brazil, they are just side characters used as a vehicle to show how unscrupulous baby brokers can get a baby to order.

    I didn't realize the Kirstie Alley was an adoptive mother when I wrote the review.

  5. I am surprised that Kirstie Alley would be the actress chosen for this role. I read her autobiography "The Art of Men" and was very disturbed by what she wrote about the adoption of her own two children. First, she insisted that the adoptions be completely closed. She has no idea who the first parents are and they have no idea who she is. She said she did this because she had heard horror stories of first mothers blackmailing celebrity parents. And also because she is not close to her (bio)mother who raised her, she made the erroneous conclusion that biology is meaningless and that her adopted children would have no interest in knowing where they came from. Given how the adoptions were handled, it seems Ms. Alley has precluded any possibility of her children finding out. Nice of her, huh?

    Secondly, she wrote about how there is a contact (I believe her name was Mary) in Hollywood circles who is able to get anyone a (white) baby in record time, no questions asked. It all sounded very suspicious and shady to me.

  6. Sandy, you are so right. There are so many "good" adopters who rescued the millions of abandoned babies, and not one who bought one of the ten or twelve taken babies. With studies showing ninety seven percent of moms ask to keep their children, something doesn't add up. I so very much appreciate those doing casting. Why Angelina did the changelings and still can't see herself is beyond me

  7. We all want transparent adoptions so that our children can connect with their birth families when they are ready. And when unscrupulous actors become involved in the process (usually they are in the sending countries), then they should absolutely be prosecuted. Fortunately, a lot of adoptions have become much more transparents since the days of Galindo.

    But the real tragedy is the millions of unparented children (and yes, even babies) around the world who need families right now. It is a humanitarian crisi, and this is really what needs to be discussed.


  8. Katie, are you out of your mind? Babies are stolen because there is a willing market. Please read THE CHILD CATCHERS and some of the links posted on this blog. You are obviously trolling blogs to make sure that the message of The Baby Sellers is diffused.

  9. Katie,
    International adoption is not the answer for "unparented" children. In fact, it increases the number of children in orphanages as Kathryn Joyce documents in "The Child Catchers."

    The answer for these "unparented" children is to help family members care for them in their own countries. But then, your agency wouldn't make any money, would it? And Americans seeking children would have to take kids from foster care instead of scarfing up adorable those Chinese and Korean babies.



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