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WAITING FOR BABY: Corruption tainting international adoption

By Ann Tatko-Peterson
Wednesday, May 28th, 2008 at 6:01 am in Adoption.

WORLD NEWS ADOPTIONS-4 1 DA(“Waiting for Baby” is a closer look at adoption and my family’s personal experience as we go through the process. It will appear every Wednesday in the aPARENTly Speaking blog.)

The news reports last week had a familiar and sad ring to them. Guatemala has annulled 15 adoptions for U.S. couples and is looking to overhaul its adoption program. The reason: fraud and irregularities. An investigation has found that some babies may have been stolen from their birth parents, others were possibly sold by their poor birth mothers.

It follows too closely reports in April that the U.S. and Vietnam will not renew their adoption agreement when it expires on Sept. 1. Corruption and baby selling are the underlying reasons there. It is the second suspension of adoptions between U.S. couples and Vietnam. The first came in 2003, with adoptions resuming in 2006.

This is the ugly side of international adoption, the side that taints and overshadows all the good that can come from adopting babies and children from other countries. It’s also the primary reason why international adoption was never on our radar.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve read a lot of stories and met a lot of people who successfully and legitimately adopted internationally. The number of qualified and reputable agencies and lawyers handling international adoption in this country and overseas far outweigh those suspected of fraud and corruption. I also admire how some victims of corrupt international adoption officials have gone on to share their stories and try to help couples avoid the same schemes that befell them. (For those considering international adoption, check out a checklist created by one such father that is an invaluable resource.)

International adoption wasn’t the right choice for my husband and me because we needed extra reassurance. We wanted to not only meet our future child’s birth mother; we also wanted to get to know her. We wanted to be sure this was her decision, that she had the counseling to be certain of her decision, and that no one was pressuring her to make a decision that she would later come to regret. Most international adoptions offer limited, if any, contact with the birth mother. And the chance for continued contact with her after the adoption is often limited. That’s why we’ve chosen to seek a domestic adoption.

But that doesn’t mean international adoption has no place in the bigger adoption picture. I’ve read the criticism. Certainly reports like those coming out of Guatemala and Vietnam don’t help. Without a doubt, adoptions must be free of corruption and fraud. Birth mothers must not be forced into placing their babies. But lost behind the glare of what has gone wrong are the 145 adoptions in Guatemala that were found to be free of any wrongdoing. What’s overshadowed are the hundreds of orphans whose families couldn’t afford to raise them, children who could find a life outside of an orphanage thanks to international adoption. The quandary is not lost on anyone.

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