Picture this: you wait patiently for a referral. You don’t voice a preference for a baby girl or a baby boy, you just want a baby. Your homestudy indicates that you would accept two children but that is more a formality encouraged by your social worker than anything else. Finally it is referral day! The phone rings and it’s a boy! And another boy! TWINS! Would you consider a twin referral? HECK YEAH! By the time you see the photos, your heart is already embracing the idea of twin baby sons. You have already shared the news with your family and friends. And then you see the photos. Strange. They don’t look too much alike. But they are so tiny, all newborns look different. Remember your friend’s twins? They looked nothing alike until they were 6 months old, and they are identical! Of course the babies might not be identical but that is ok with you. TWINS! And your agency says you can count on traveling very soon – maybe in the next 1-2 months! This is all happening so quickly. They’ll need a decision soon. Of course you’ll say yes! What could be more wonderful than this double blessing?
How did you get so lucky? Or did you get so lucky at all?
Artificial twinning is a term you may have read or heard about during your homestudy or adoption reading. It is the term used to describe a situation where two children who are not biologically related but are within 9 months of age of each other are raised together, more or less as twins. Artificial twinning, itself, is controversial. Some experts, homestudy agencies and adoption agencies are unsupportive of it. Some families have had excellent experiences with artificial twinning within their own home. Regardless of your opinion of artificial twinning, there is one situation where is is always wrong: when an agency or orphanage deceives families and the government in an attempt to pass off unrelated children as biological twins. This is what I want to address today. Fraudulent artificial twinning.
It is my belief that unethical artificial twinning is happening in Vietnam. Right now. Actively. I believe that it has been happening for months. I can think of about a dozen “twin” referrals off the top of my head in the last year alone, despite the fact that Vietnam only claimed 168 adoptions for Fiscal Year 2006. To add to my suspicion, these adoptions are almost always with the same few agencies. One agency alone has claimed to have referred out a half dozen twin sets already. Others seem to have an almost constant stream of twin referrals. One agency is reportedly under investigation for artificial twinning as we speak. And yet, when you look at some of the agencies who have been working in Vietnam most actively and ethically since early 2006, you don’t see a single twin adoption. Not a single one.
Legitimate, ethical twin adoptions can and have occurred. It is rare but it happens. So what about the rest? What about the twin adoptions where the children are not biologically related but an agency or an orphanage falsifies their paperwork in order to pass them off as twins?
First, it is wise not to believe that twins grow on orphanage trees. I hate to be flippant but it is amazing to me what people will believe when they are thinking from their hearts instead of their minds. Vietnam’s twin rate is hard to pin down but it is probably just under 1% of births, we don’t know how many of those births are later relinquished or abandoned but I think it is safe to say that less than 1% of all orphans available for adoption are twins. I have even heard agencies claim that the huge rate of twins they seem to see is related to “Vietnamese superstitions”. Well let me put that myth to rest. I’ve asked around and although Vietnam is a superstitious country, there is no known superstition specifically related to twins being bad luck.
Second, it is wise to be aware that twins are a hot commodity. Many parents are willing and eager to accept a twin referral, most are homestudy approved for 2 or more children. A parent who wishes to adopt twins through an ethical agency can be looking at years of waiting, if the agency will even agree to consider the request. If an agency approaches with a “waiting” twin referral with no special needs that they just can not place, consider that there may be a reason that is bigger than the babies themselves. And then re-read my blog entry from the other day about Waiting Children & Unethical Agencies. If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.
Third, listen to that inner voice. Adoption can be painful business. It sometimes forces us to stare our morality in the face and make difficult decisions that we never considered we’d have to make. If you receive a referral of twins that do not look like twins or even the same age, do the right thing. Ask the right questions. Investigate the agency more thoroughly. Ask how many other twin referrals they have given out in the last year. Ask to talk to others who have recently adopted twins to compare stories. And then think from your head, not from your heart. Listen to that little voice that tells you something is off.
Parents have ultimate power here. So often we feel completely powerless in the adoption process but we have all the power. We speak with our contracts and with our money. We can support ethical adoptions and ethical agencies or we can keep feeding the unethical beast. If we make the wrong choice, we may be soon looking at a program that no longer exists to us here in the U.S. Artificial twinning can not possibly happen if prospective adoptive parents don’t let it happen. That choice is ours. Let’s do the right thing with that power.