Tag Archives: adoption corruption and baby selling

Adopt a Ukrainian Baby

collage by author

Actually, you can’t adopt a Ukrainian baby.

Here’s why

The nation’s Ministry of Social Policy has declared a moratorium on adoptions because of the war. They clearly state that “under current conditions inter-country adoption is impossible.”

The National Council for Adoption in the U.S. states that the identities of Ukrainian children and their legal, social, and familial status cannot be verified at this time, and this is not the appropriate time for adopting them.

But still, the persistent persist. A crusade to capture “orphans” in the name of Christianity charges forward. And the brazen unscrupulousness is enough to bring you to your knees. Because Evangelical Christian adoption is a serious thing. A devoutly serious thing. Devoutly serious Christians want to do good. Or do their version of doing good. However, international adoption has not been unabashedly good.

A brief history

Japan, Germany, and Korea

After World War II the plight of Japanese “orphans” and German “orphans” began attracting attention in the U.S. However, these children were likely not orphans at all. They were the offspring of departing U. S. servicemen, and often stigmatized for their mixed race status. This made it difficult for their mothers to raise them. So organizations promoting adoption of these children sprang up. Lots of organizations. And of course, lots of money changed hands.

Then came the Korean War and the Holts. You’ve maybe heard of them if you’re at all familiar with international adoption. They were an Evangelical couple from Oregon. After the Korean War they adopted eight Korean children. Laws were changed to make this possible.

The idea caught on. More laws were changed. Proxy adoptions became popular. Therefore, American couples did not even have to appear in a foreign country’s courts to finalize the adoptions. According to the University of Oregon Adoption History Project, Americans adopted 15,000 foreign children between 1953 and 1962. The Holts and the agency that grew out of their family adoption project were thought to be the gold standard in international adoption for a long time.

Viet Nam, etc. etc.

If you’re of a certain age, you might remember Operation Babylift as Saigon fell at the end of the Viet Nam War. That story had a second chapter as some of the “orphans” brought to the U.S. returned to Viet Nam and sought their birth families. In fact, many foreign adoptees have returned to their homelands seeking family members that were there all along.

The sources of children for international adoption were endless. The one child policy in China. The Ceausescu orphanages of Romania. The conflict in Ethiopia, the earthquake victims of Haiti, the poverty in Latin America. This is not a complete list, by any means. Wherever disaster strikes, adoption agencies swoop in.

What we know now

What we know now is that foreign adoption is even more complicated than domestic adoption. Every adoption begins with loss. But foreign adoption begins with every loss. Mother, family, country, culture, language, cuisine. All gone.

The word is out that Ukrainian children are not fair game for adoption right now. It seems unlikely that everyone wants to hear that message. But maybe the tide is turning. Bethany, one of the most fervent Christian agencies, now has a new stance. According to an article in the Atlantic a few months ago, that stance is family preservation. Yes. Family preservation.

And..I hate to rain on the preservation parade, but that’s probably why the surrogacy business is booming.

Surrogate Motherhood in Ukraine

“Maze”
artwork by author

Ukraine is a leader in surrogacy

Surrogate motherhood is a big thing in Ukraine. I didn’t know about this thriving business until the war. Now I can’t stop thinking about it. In my previous post I wrote about the couple from California who went to great lengths to get their newborn daughter out of Kyiv while the surrogate mother who gave birth to the child stayed behind. The Los Angeles Times wrote a follow-up story, which made me think about the general issue of surrogate motherhood–both traditional and gestational. You can click HERE if you want to get a clear idea of the difference between the two.

Surrogate motherhood’s price tag

Like in the adoption industry, money–lots of it–changes hands in a surrogacy arrangement. According to some info on the web from the Fertility Center of Las Vegas, surrogacy costs in the U.S. range from110,000 to 170,000 dollars. Understandably (if you can understand the concept of renting another person’s uterus,) couples go searching for a better deal. Surrogacy services have been legal in Ukraine since 2002, and the cost is reportedly between 30,000 and 40,000 U.S. dollars “for the complete package.” It’s easy to see, with that price difference, why business is thriving. Couples from all over the world turn to Ukraine to fulfill their dreams of having a family.

Basements full of babies

But first there was Covid. And now there’s a full-blown war. So there are basement bomb shelters full of babies in Ukraine. Judging from the photos some newspapers are running with the current articles about babies stuck there because of the fighting, there are lots and lots of babies. From the look of things, with some babies holding up their heads and looking around, legs dangling to the nannies’ waists, these babies were born long before the first shell dropped–probably months ago while travel was restricted due to Covid. And as if things aren’t horrific enough, there’s been worry about another wave of Covid due to crowded conditions in shelters and from the massive crowds crammed together in the exodus. It’s an unthinkable situation.

The complications of surrogacy

Like adoption, surrogacy is fraught with complications. At its heart the ethics, I think, are questionable. If you want a bit of a lengthy read, there’s this Supreme Court brief from 2018 . Having been guided on my own journey as a birthmother by Concerned United Birthparents, it’s worth noting that much of what’s in the brief was guided by CUB’s position paper on surrogacy.

For the past two weeks I’ve seen the images on TV of Ukrainians fleeing their country. People in their beautiful winter coats, their thick hats and matching scarves, the furry boots. The children bundled and looking quite cozy despite the frigid temperatures. I have no way of knowing if there were surrogate mothers in the crowd, but I’m thinking maybe not. Maybe they’re like the surrogate mother in the California story. She has two other children and a husband who’s fighting in the war. Their house is old and the basement “is closed off because it needs repair.” It doesn’t sound like she’ll be going anywhere.

The economics of surrogacy

Ukraine is the poorest country in Europe. Surrogacy is big business because women need the money. Of course, their cut of the 30 to 40 grand is around 15,000 dollars, and the agency, of course, gets its piece. Economics and ethics get wound into a tangle with surrogacy, just like in adoption.

The surrogate child

Certainly, there will be no uniform point of view from the Ukrainian children who emerge from the basements into family life– just as there is no uniform point of view from adoptees about their own past trauma. But now, with the delays due to Covid and this terrible war, it is certain that harm is being done.

Crowd Funding for Adoption

pagan-babies
A “pagan baby” adoption certificate, circa 1960s–a practice less repugnant than crowd funding for adoption.

Some examples

It’s National Adoption Month. And, of course, the topic of crowd funding for adoption has popped up here and there and everywhere.

“Pagan babies” in the 1960s

I went to Catholic grade school in the 60s. It was customary to forego one’s morning carton of milk, and instead give your pennies to the “pagan baby” fund. When we had raised enough money, the class could “adopt” a baby from Africa. These babies were not really removed from their families, but were baptized and given Christian names. We children voted on the names after Sister wrote the suggestions on the blackboard. After a show of hands, Sister would count up the hash marks next to each name.

As a result, some weeks later a certificate with the baby’s new name would arrive. We would display it in our classroom. I have no idea if the children were really called Christine Mary, or David John, or whatever Christian names we chose. I don’t know if the money was an honorarium for the missionary priest who performed the baptism. Or if the money was used to bestow gifts on the child’s family as an incentive for converting to Catholicism, or if it bought fancy white baptismal gowns, or what.

This practice seemed unbelievable when I recalled it as a grown-up former Catholic. It felt archaic and colonial, full of presumption and harm. Crowd funding for infant adoption makes the pagan baby racket feel like child’s play.

Funding for family preservation

How about some funding for family preservation? I recently learned about this organization. Their website is full of information that will blow your mind. Here’s a tiny taste. In the excerpt below, the word care means being removed from their families and placed in foster care.

“Compared to white children, based on child population estimates:

– American Indian children were 17.6 times more likely to experience care.

– Children identified as two or more races were 4.8 times more likely to experience care. (59.2 percent identified at least one race as African-American/Black and 56.0 percent identified at least one race as American Indian.)

– African-American children were over 3.1 times more likely to experience care.”

Adoption: Anti vs Pro

Are you anti-adoption or pro-adoption? There’s no line in the sand in this photo.

A story about taking sides

Adoption. Anti vs. Pro. I don’t want a line in the sand. I’m not pro-adoption, and I don’t want to be anti-adoption either. But. Please read on.

My boyfriend died of lung cancer in June. We’d only been together for five years, so there was a lot I didn’t know about him. Dan had been at Berkeley during the Free Speech Movement, while I was a boy-crazy 8th grader at a Catholic school in Iowa. Even before that, if I have the timeline correct, he’d joined the Freedom Riders and had gone down to Mississippi. An old friend of his told me that while he was down there he was arrested and taken to jail. “Are you black or white?” Dan was asked over and over again as they were preparing lock him up. Dan, a Korean-American, wouldn’t answer the question, but as the questioning got more aggressive, Dan finally went with white. He was jailed anyway. 

I’m telling this story as an introduction.

Why I’m not pro-adoption

I do not imagine ever aligning myself with the folks who call themselves pro-adoption. But, I might be in favor of some adoptions. But the label pro-adoption would need to be dissected and arranged in such a way that it didn’t mean unnecessary adoption. I might be in favor of some adoptions if it didn’t mean secrets and shame and sealed records. If it didn’t mean child trafficking or endangerment or taking children from poor single mothers and giving them to couples with a bigger bank account. I might if family preservation came first and foremost.

I don’t want to be anti-adoption

But I don’t really want to be anti-adoption either. Not straight across the board. I acknowledge that there are children who need to be removed from their biological parents–at least temporarily. Still, adoption is no guarantee there will not be abuse. I acknowledge that there are children in orphanages and in foster care that need families. Claudia Corrigan D’Arcy elaborates on the anti-adoption label in her ESSAY from Portrait of an Adoption and pretty much covers everything. So, yes, if I have to choose, I’ll have what she’s having. But only if it’s served up like that.

Reform adoption!

Reform of the adoption industry is absolutely necessary. But I don’t like the line in the sand. I’m guessing that a lot of the people who label themselves as pro-adoption don’t really want to associate themselves with the corrupt practices present in adoption today. Or at least I hope not. So I wish they wouldn’t say they were pro-adoption without writing an essay defining it.

Strength is something we seek. Taking a stand is admired. Fervent seems like a nice adjective. But maybe we all have to stand together in the middle of the hurt and confusion explaining every little thing to one another, listening as hard as we can.

The Dunce Hat Again

I haven’t posted for ages, and maybe that’s because I’ve been trying to get comfortable in this hat again. My special adoption dunce hat.

In my previous post I exclaimed that I wished I was young enough to adopt a Haitian orphan. That was ridiculously naive. And I’m probably drinking way too much wine. It’s a post divorce thing. Commenters pointed out the foreign adoption scam angle. And 24 hours later the news story broke about the kidnapping of the Haitian children under the guise of adoption. Since then there have been other unsavory stories in the news about foreign adoptions.

I want to believe that if there are children (orphans) who need adopting, that there are decent people who will love them. I want to believe that because I am a birthmother. Unfortunately, in many, many cases the adopters are unscrupulous, and the children are victims.

For years I’ve had this scenario in my head that adoption should include the birthmother (and father) if at all possible. Why not foster a teen-ager and a baby?

Meanwhile, while on the subject of bad adoption news, I was struck by an article in the L.A. Times a few days ago by Marilyn Elias about  depression  The article isn’t about adoption per se–it’s about parents who suffer from depression and the effect that has on their children. “Evidence is mounting that growing up with a depressed parent increases a child’s risk for mental health problems, cognitive difficulties and troubled social relationships.”

Another ripple in the adoption pond, I thought as I read on. The interminable sadness that is the legacy of giving up a child goes on to effect subsequent children. Well, that’s depressing. And the depression could go on to effect the children’s children. And so on. Adoption. Big ripples in a deep, deep pond.