Saturday, March 22, 2014

You can’t handle the truth!

In the last couple of weeks I have been emailed by a friend of friend and approached in the grocery store by an acquaintance. In both instances, the person wanted to talk with me because they are interested in adopting “from Africa” and they knew I adopted from Ethiopia and how wonderful my daughter is.

It’s true. I did. She is. BUT

My adoption friends on the interwebs and IRL and close personal friends know something of my journey in the last couple of years but many others do not. So here’s fair warning: if your friends are considering adopting internationally and want a true picture of international adoption so they can make a truly INFORMED decision, I’ll talk with them. If they want a cheerleader for international adoption, don’t send them my way!

For I am officially coming out (Whoa, and I thought coming out as a lesbian was tough!) as a mother who adopted internationally and is against international adoption.

I assure you, I do not make this statement any more lightly than I did coming out the last time. And this one has been a journey more fraught with, well, let’s just say really really fraught.

I’ve stated publically many times that talking adoption corruption is not being disloyal to our children. In fact, it is the ultimate loyalty. It’s saying that we love our children beyond measure and are confident enough in our love for them and respectful of the horrendous injustice they (and in many cases their birth families) have suffered to say: THIS MUST STOP!!!

Now before anyone starts throwing out statistics about orphans world wide or the conditions in orphanages, let me say, we agree: the situation is unspeakably bad. But here’s the thing, the current ‘orphan crisis’ and orphanage conditions are often, way too often, a direct result of the international adoption industry!!

Nothing good can come of the commodification of children.

And here’s my response to why your or your friend’s adoption from country X wasn’t completely ethical or corruption-free. Even if you met the birth mother and she expressed her desire to have you adopt her child. Even if you saw your child’s birth parents’ graves. Even if, even if, even if…

Because when adoption is a multimillion dollar industry in a desperately poor country, there is no such thing as an ethical adoption!!

Because 1) in many cultures, adoption doesn’t mean what it does to westerners and birth families often truly do not understand that their children are permanently going to be the children of other parents, 2) when birth families see children in orphanages getting food and education they cannot provide they see adoption as a good option – even when the desperately want to raise their children, 3) there are NO adoption agencies (no matter what you’ve heard about the wonderful, spectacular, faith-driven agency you’re using) that have zero allegations of fraud and corruption against them, 4) in order to process adoptions in developing countries bribes are required and it’s a slippery slope, 5) children who actually do need to be adopted are processed by the same system and people (same facilitators etc) as the children who are being trafficked and it’s not okay that the multitudes of trafficked children and their birth families are collateral damage for the relatively small number of children who actually need to be adopted.

And yes, older children are trafficked, sibling sets are trafficked, special needs children are trafficked, HIV+ children are trafficked. It’s not just healthy infants!!

So when you consider the system as a whole as the source of corruption and any adoption processed within that system is linked to every other, there is no way to assure an ethical international adoption. EVER.


Here’s what you can do instead:
1)   Listen to the stories of families (birth and adoptive) and children who have been victims of trafficking and BELIEVE THEM, because why the hell would they lie???
2)   Stop supporting the international adoption industry by adopting, sponsoring, or donating
3)   Support country-owned NGOs that support family preservation
4)   And if you really want to adopt, consider domestic foster care. It’s not perfect by a long shot but more often than not, you’ll actually be providing a family for a child who definitely needs one, unlike international adoption, where you’ll probably always have to wonder or you’ll know pretty much for sure that you’re raising someone else’s child, and even if you know 100% for sure that your individual child was rightfully and willingly placed for adoption by his/her birth family your adoption is still sullied by the victimization of all the other children and families who were, in fact trafficked.

So I’m out and I’m not ashamed of being an adoptive mom who is against international adoption. I can’t go back in time and change my child’s journey to our family but in her name I can say THIS HAS GOT TO STOP!!!


  1. I am a birthmother from the USA and I have to tell you that you are 100% right and dead on. Oh, and thank you for "coming out!" We need many more like you!

  2. Thank you for that post. I just blogged about this earlier this week. As I talk about adoption with friends they often talk about international adoptions being the "humane" way to adopt. Thanks for giving me a resource for PAPs.

    Your voice is much strong than mine alone.

  3. Nice work, sister. It's true. I am with you.

  4. Thanks for your honestly, candor and bravery. Work w/ us to change the system!

  5. Yes! Thank you! This needs to be said x 10000!!

    It would also be helpful if APs who had first-hand encounters with fraud in, say, their first Ethiopian adoption did not brush their concerns aside (or hire an investigator to look into them) and then go ahead and adopt that second ET kid anyways -- cough, cough Mary McBride of

    Because it is scary as all get-out that first hand experience with fraud aren't enough to stop a college-educated couple, who publicaly via their blog profess to care deeply about adoption ethics from acquiring a SECOND kid from the same damn country they ran into fraud in.

    Yes, it's preferable that APs who ran into fraud talk about (relative to saying nothing about it) but so much of the corruption/trafficking associated with adopting from desperately poor countries would GO AWAY if PAPs simply WALKED AWAY after encountering fraud. If their desire for a kid didn't invariably trump the reasons they really shouldn't be taking home a kid that has a family that loves AND wants them!


    I'd also like to point out that if you're willing to adopt a child of color -- particularly a male one -- around 100 American kids are adopted by foreigners each year, as no US families can be found for them.

    These kids are mostly African-American, mostly male and mostly newborn. Two of them happen to be my adorable godsons who were adopted by my Jamaican-Canadian BFF and her husband in Toronto, as newborns, from VT social services. They're great parents (maybe I'm a bit biased :-)), those boys have a great live and it is a *travesty* that they could not be adopted domestically!

    (My personal view is that VT social services didn't try very hard to find my godsons domestic families).