The decision to adopt a child internationally is one of the biggest, most impactful decisions we will ever make. We owe it to ourselves and even more so, to our children, to make an informed decision. It’s not enough to choose a “good” agency and then trust them to take care of the rest. If we really want to complete an ethical adoption, we need to do a lot of research. Consider it like a very important college course.
Your syllabus for Adoption Ethics 101 would look like this list from Adopting Internationally: What To Do About Adoption Corruption. This is an extremely comprehensive list and you’ll have a lot of homework if you plan to follow their advice. And you’ll find you have a good deal of knowledge and insight as a result.
Many PAP’s ask us to just post a list, Bad Agencies and Good Agencies. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. For one thing, there’s the ever-present danger of a lawsuit. You’d be amazed how quickly agencies will threaten (and bring) lawsuits, and the ones with the worst reputations seem to make the threat the most often. But even aside from our concern about lawsuits, the simple fact is we don’t have first-hand knowledge about all 42 agencies. In fact, I only have first hand knowledge about one, the one we used to adopt. All other information I have is based on second hand information. I happen to think most of it is accurate, but if I were to actually make a public list of “Bad” agencies I’d want to be able to back up the list with good concrete evidence of the first-hand or documented variety. Same goes for the “Good” agencies. There’s agencies I’ve heard many good things about and who have humanitarian programs that I think go above and beyond the average agency program, but what if I recommended them and then it turned out they were corrupt? (When people ask me privately I always say “these are the agencies I’d look into if I were adopting again.” because I see my “good” list as just a place to start, not an authoritative source). Third, agency personnel can change from time to time. So while an agency may have had a great program, a change in facilitators or program managers could affect the overall quality of their program. What this means is, it’s really up to every Prospective Adoptive Parent to do their own research.
If you really want to “Master” the world of Adoption Ethics, I suggest this as your “201″ course: Child Laundering: How the Intercountry Adoption System Legitimizes and Incentivizes the Practices of Buying, Trafficking, Kidnapping, and Stealing Children. This is a paper written by David M. Smolin, Cumberland Law School, Samford University and published in the Wayne Law Review. 90 pages in length, this is not a light read. To quote from the abstract, “This article documents and analyzes a substantial incidence of “child laundering” within the intercountry adoption system. Child laundering occurs when children are taken illegally from birth families through child buying or kidnapping, and then “laundered” through the adoption system as “orphans” and then “adoptees.” The article then proposes reforms to the intercountry adoption system that could substantially reduce the incidence of child laundering.” It’s a weighty issue but this is not an anti-adoption paper. A third of the report is dedicated to reforming the system and the role our federal government should play in protecting the children. I have not read this report yet, the link was just posted to one of my yahoo groups today. But I plan to sit down and sift through the entire paper and then I may be back with some suggestions for action we can take to make things better. (letter-writing campaign, anyone?) I’d love it if others would read this and share your thoughts and reactions too.
While you are doing all this research, don’t forget your study groups! The Yahoo groups such as the APV and AAR are good places to get a sense of what’s currently happening in Vietnam adoption and what agencies you might want to look into more, or avoid altogether. We also recently learned of a new Yahoo group, Transparent Adoptive Parents for Transparent Adoption Programs or TAP TAP for short. This group is so new it doesn’t have much membership yet, but with goals such as these: “1. Transparency in every aspect of adoption and orphanage operations. 2. Improved care for children in orphan care facilities. 3. Mutual respect, improved communications and appreciation between adoptive parents and adoption facilitators, orphanage directors and government entities.” I think it has the potential to become a valuable resource in the future.
We here at VVAI want to do everything we can to help PAP’s navigate the world of Vietnam Adoption and choose a good ethical agency. We share personal stories, discuss controversial topics and post news as we receive it. But there’s a limit to what we can do. At the end of the day, it’s up to every PAP to take responsibility for their adoption and make the effort to really do the research. Trust me, in the end, you’ll be glad you did.