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reservations

I haven’t posted here on VVAI in some time, save for short posts with links to news and updates. Partially that is because my family has been in the middle of a cross-country move and I haven’t been able to think beyond my immediate circumstances. And partially, it’s because I didn’t know what to say. There has been some serious activity in the Vietnam adoption world. The grass-roots movement we have seen in the last two to three months has been truly impressive. It just goes to show what can be accomplished when people work together for a common purpose. Having been extremely involved in a similar movement with Cambodian adoptions six years ago, there is a part of me that wants to stand up and cheer; but there is also a part of me that wonders, Where will all of this lead? And it is that voice that I hear in my heart, that voice that I can not quiet. Because the truth is, as much as I admire the goals of the Petitions and Campaigns, I still have reservations.

Deja-vu all over again: When things abruptly shut down in Cambodia in late December 2001, many many families were caught in the cross-hairs. Some families held legal adoption decrees and only needed to complete their giving/receiving ceremony. Others were well into the process, while some had only recently gotten a referral. And then there were those who had just begun the journey but very much wanted to adopt from Cambodia. Having been told there was no hope for any of us to bring our children home, we banded together. Hundreds, perhaps thousands of us petitioned and held letter-writing campaigns. We made phone calls and sent faxes. There was even a march organized in DC that resulted in a face to face meeting with higher ups at the State Department. At the time I was told they had never seen a movement like ours, and we made a serious impact. Every family that stuck it out eventually brought their child home. And even beyond that, USCIS made allowences for families that had stated their intentions to adopt before the suspension. I was shocked and amazed. But it wasn’t fast. The U.S. was careful and deliberate in their processing of those cases and it was over two years before all the adoptions were completed. And an interesting thing happened along the way – as the numbers of cases pending dwindled, so did our voice. Children came home and families moved on with their lives. Two years after the uproar, there were precious few of us left still speaking for the children left behind. Those of us who remain committed to the cause have learned a great deal in the process. When you spend hours each day reading every available document and speaking with highly connected people, you learn perhaps more than you ever wanted to. It became impossible to deny the fact that at its core, the Cambodian adoption system was corrupt. None of us could honestly claim that our adoptions were completely untainted. And as badly as I wanted Cambodia to reopen, I found myself reluctantly agreeing with our government – without real change from within the Cambodian system, no adoption process could ever truly be ethical. It is because of the lessons I learned over the last six years that I have so many real, heartfelt concerns about what I see in Vietnam and the Vietnam adoption community today.

Misdirected? The recent letter from the Congressional Coalition on Adoption to Secretary Rice and signed by 149 congress people is laudable in its scope and focus on ethics.

We strongly share your concern about reported instances of fraud and corruption within Vietnam’s adoption system. We share your belief that systematic reform and more effective safeguards are needed to prevent the types of abuses described in your most recent report. Further, we understand that greater cooperation of the Government of Vietnam will be required to address these concerns. Nevertheless, we encourage you to work with the Vietnamese Government to implement proactive measures designed to guard against abuse. Such measures could include a thorough accreditation process for all U.S.-based agencies providing services in Vietnam, increased transparency and accountability with regard to fees, and strengthened laws and procedures for prosecuting individuals found to be complicit in fraudulant behavior.

My concern is that calls for systemic reform, more effective safeguards and transparency and accountibility with regard to fees would be more appropriately directed at Vietnam than the Department of State. The original MOU called for a published fee schedule – Vietnam agreed to that requirement and yet in the last three years it has never materialized. How would a new hasitly written and agreed upon MOU produce a better result? “Systemic Reform” is such a sweeping concept. How would that be accomplished? Even some officials within the Vietnamese government recognize that corruption is endemic at all levels of their society. Certainly the U.S. can and should do a better job policing our own adoption agencies. But what is to protect children and families from corruption outside of the control of our agencies?

Who is responsible?  Recently we have learned of a number of instances where children are being placed for adoption without their birth family’s knowledge or consent. Sometimes apparently the birth parent is told the care is only temporary and they can come back for their child later. Or the birth family is assured the child will not be adopted out internationally. In many of these cases, the child is documented as “abandoned” so that no one will go question the birth family. We have also heard (from first-hand reports) that adoptive families have learned that the child’s birth family was told the child would return in the future to support the birth family – or the adoptive family would provide ongoing support. Such means of coercing relinquishments are not new to international adoption – the same methods were well documented in Cambodia and in Guatemala, and I have heard similar scenerios in Russia and a number of other countries as well. If tactics such as these are so common around the world, why aren’t agencies doing anything to make certain all relinquishments are above board? Well, in fact, some are.

Some of you know that my family adopted through Holt International. I haven’t mentioned that before because I don’t feel the need to advertise my agency and I make every effort to be unbiased in my postings here. Some people don’t like Holt – they think the agency is too big, too impersonal, and makes too many of their own rules above and beyond country requirements. From personal experience I can add that most adoptions with Holt take longer and children are generally referred at an older age than other agencies. But when we decided to adopt from Vietnam in 2005, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I wanted to work with Holt. They don’t just do adoptions – they create entire child welfare systems in every single country where they work. They literally invented international adoption and have been called the “gold standard” by ambassadors and government officials around the world. But they aren’t the only ones doing good work  – Pearl S. Buck/Welcome House also reaches out into the community to help families with disabled children stay together. And Lutheran Social Service Minnesota offers community support in the rural villages of Dong Thap and Kien Giang Provinces, through their humanitarian arm, The Catalyst Foundation. Unfortunately, these agencies are a rarity in their level of commitment. They have made the best interests of the children and their families a high priorty when most others seem to be more focused on fast referrals. Admittedly, creating humanitarian programs that seek to make international adoption a last resort is not easy. It takes serious investment, dedication and a thorough understanding of each country and culture where they work. Why should we expect that from our agencies?

Agencies are required to have a physical office in Vietnam. Well I’d say that’s the bare minimum of what any agency should do. I think agencies should maintain offices and staff in every single province where they are working and should be a constant presence at the orphanages. How can we be assured our agency truly knows what is happening behind the scenes if their involvement doesn’t begin until the moment of referral? They shouldn’t be seen as “big brother” so much as a partner with the orphanage, offering training, support and accountibility.  Relationships like that don’t come from large “donations” – they are the result of time and sincere effort.  Furthermore, we need to ask ourselves, is it reasonable to expect that a developing country will provide the social services that are necessary to protect the rights and interests of children and birth families involved in international adoptions?  If every agency could achieve that level of involvement, I would have much more confidence in the efforts to create a stop-gap MOU. But then, if every agency were making that sort of effort, perhaps the previous MOU would have been renewed.

The U.S. is caught in a difficult position – there are basic standards that need to be met to protect children and families from trafficking, but much of the work has to be done by the sending country. Personally I find hope in the recent article about Nam Dinh officials investigating fraudulant paperwork. Instead of denying the corruption or obstructing an investigation, that city is taking responsiblity and making an effort to hold people accountible. Perhaps they will be an example to other cities, and real reform will take place, from the ground up. Anything is possible.

In the meantime, it may be that adoptions need to stop, momentarily. For as long as adoptions continue, as long as money flows through a corrupt system, there will be little incentive for reform. And what of the children “stuck” in the orphanages? Well, if agencies are truly committed to Vietnam’s children, they won’t let a shutdown stop their humanitarian efforts. Certainly it takes money to run a good program, but many agencies have found that child sponsorship programs and fundraising can fill the void. It is also possible that some children will be reunited with their Vietnamese families once orphanage directors realize there is no profit in keeping them. In Cambodia we’ve found a number of ways to support the children left behind. Our family supports a missionary family who regularly visits the orphanage where our daughter lived. They report that six years later there are far fewer children in the orphanage and most of the children left behind after the shutdown have been returned to families or adopted out to the few countries still allowing adoptions. We also sponsor children through World Vision. I like the idea that our money makes it possible for a child to stay with his/her family and to make life better for all of them.

Adoption is not an act of charity and sponsorship in no way replaces an adoption in a waiting family’s heart. And I feel a deep empathy for those who are not able to receive a referral before the September 1st deadline. It is heartbreaking to have to wait even longer, or consider starting all over with a new country. I truly hope that the agencies and governments involved in the MOU discussions will put the needs of vulnerable families and children above their own selfish interests and that adoptions will be able to resume without a long delay.

This has not been an easy piece to write. I know that many will read my words and react in hurt and anger because I am touching a very raw subject for everyone involved in Vietnam adoptions. My intention is not to be negative or “anti-adoption”. In fact, I am very pro-adoption… I believe ethical adoptions are like miracles – bringing blessing from tragedy. It is for that reason that I speak out – because if we don’t advocate for adoption reforms from within, one country after another will be shut down, leaving orphans with no hope and prospective parents with few options. The Vietnam adoption community has shown a tremendous capacity to work together and speak out – could we use those energies to advocate for the best, most ethical system even if it means it might take a little longer?

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33 Comments »

Comment by Laura
2008-07-15 21:41:01

Thank you so much for this post. I admit I am glad to see our agency (LSS/MN) mentioned. My frustration over how long we have been waiting (18 months) is eased only by knowing IF we do get our referral by Sept 1st…I can sleep at night knowing it is as ethical as is possible : )

 
Comment by K
2008-07-15 23:13:24

Christina,

Thank you for the post. As a parent of a child from Nam Dinh, we are sick to think that our adoption (or any part of it) may have been fraudulent. We have had growing questions about our child’s true age (he has huge developmental delays and we have been asked repeatedly if he could be younger) and had felt that our agency, Faith International, had done some funky things in transferring his care from one place to another. Seeing that article puts a couple of more holes in the story for us. I wish I could sleep better. I applaud Laura and others who ask the hard questions and push their agencies toward ethics rather than quick referrals. We all need to keep pushing even though it is not popular to do so.

Comment by rick
2009-01-31 20:34:20

Are you at liberty to share more about your experience with Faith International? We had a very painful and devastating experience with them. They are affiliated with another adoption agency too.

 
 
Comment by e.
2008-07-16 10:23:25

Christina, A good, brave post. I don’t have much to add and in fact, I have left the Vietnam adoption process because I don’t trust the system. But my quote of the week surely applies to you: “If you don’t stand for something, then you’ll fall for anything. ” (Joe Strummer).

 
2008-07-16 11:30:40

[…] do not miss Christina’s post titled: reservations. It contains many important talking points and is very relevant given the spiraling state of […]

 
Comment by Kelli
2008-07-16 21:19:39

As a PAP, I have been torn- I want so badly for things to continue yet I know there are problems that need to be fixed. This is a well-written, very profound post. It contains a lot of things I have been thinking about but have been to afraid to out down on paper or on my blog.

 
Comment by Tonya
2008-07-17 08:08:35

I agree with all statements above that this is an excellent post. I know there are problems that need to be fixed and true orphans that need loving homes. However, I must comment on the above post regarding Nam Dinh and Faith International. Let me first say that I don’t want this to turn into an agency bashing section…that is not my intention. But, K above questions her agency’s practice….

K is completely entitled to her feelings and opinions and has EVERY right to express them-just as others have a right to respond.

I have had good experience with Faith. Let me remind everyone that the director of Faith was part of the delegation that JCICS sent to Vietnam to campaign on behalf of thier Child’s Right Campaign to improve adoptions in Vietnam. He along with representatives from JCICS, Ethica, Holt Intl, Global Orphan Care, etc were advocating for improvements. So please don’t immediately place doubt in other’s minds about thier practices…..

Also, as a special education teacher let me remind you that there are many reasons that children (adoptive and biological) display developmental delays. Never having met you or your child, my guess would be that yes, your child spending time in an orphanage (essentially an institution) is probably a major contributing factor. His possible age discrepancy is also probably a major contributing factor.
But to point a finger at an agency as the definite cause to it is probably jumping the gun (so to speak).

I am glad that your son found his way to you and that he will benefit from your love and care. I hope that his adoption was ethical and legitimate. I definetly agree that problems exist, I just think we need to be very careful before we start pointing fingers at any one or two organizations. From what we are learning daily, these problems are wide-spread and not limited to anyone in particular.

I agree that we need to continue to strive for transparency and ethics instead of quick referrals (Faith among other agencies don’t have quick referrals. Most PAP’s with Faith are waiting 12-16 months and longer for referrals).

Again, I respect K’s and everyone’s opinion…just wanted to add some other things as well.

Here’s praying for continued positive efforts for the orphans of Vietnam and all over the world!!

Comment by K
2008-07-17 22:05:04

Tonya,

I don’t question the delay issue with my child but the practices that occurred in his adoption process as well as information given. I am not agency bashing but can say after asking for clarification from our agency received none. Can say the embassy didn’t like our circumstances either and held us up as a result. Issues? Maybe, maybe not. But to read the articles coming out about Nam Dinh and knowing that I paid higher fees to adopt from this province (as per my agency) gives me pause. I would not have written this but for your response. I hold no one accountable for my son’s severe issues and am happy that he is with me.
I am not pointing fingers but feel like I am lifting a veil.
k

 
Comment by K
2008-07-17 22:10:36

I don’t think I linked his delays to the agency in any way. I pointed out the thread that Christina was pointing to which was lack of transparency and irregularities. Also, want to point out that many Nam Dinh referrals have come through very quickly in the past 18 months mine included.

 
Comment by Lin
2008-07-20 03:47:46

As a veteran adoptive mom–my children are older teens and 20s now, I’d just like to add that there should be no such thing as long waits for referrals. That has nothing at all to do with anything in the adoption process except for something we used to call “stockpiling”. Stockpiling is what some agencies do when they run short on funds. They simply take more applicants in to get homestudies going and money flowing. They know they won’t have referrals for those families for a looooong time. They don’t care. It’s unethical and it was done a lot in the past. I spent three years as an adoption advisor and the things I learned about American agencies were shocking and disgusting. I learned some of the tricks the American agencies were pulling in other countries and you’d be surprized. But referrals have nothing at all to do with the legal process or waiting process in adoptions. They come according to how the agency either does or does not stockpile the waiting families. Truly ethical agencies refuse to take in new prospective adoptive parents until there is actually room for them and they are not put on a long waiting list. Unethical agencies take in way too many PAPs when they need or want the money and couldn’t care less about the emotional or financial strain it puts on the PAPs. They know darn good and well that the familes will have over a year’s wait for a referral and that the homestudy will have to be updated, perhaps twice. It’s all about the $$$. The crud like this on OUR end of the adoption game is the reason I left my work in the adoption world and put that chapter of my life behind me. I couldn’t take it anymore.

Veteran adoptive mom,
Korea, Cambodia, Vietnam

 
 
Comment by Mary
2008-07-17 10:28:51

Thanks, Christina. I just don’t understand why the US government didn’t learn from the past. To my mind, they have failed us terribly. An MOU that required agencies to have a specific financial relationship with the very orphanages which provide them with children was a recipe for disaster from the beginning. For how many years have people been working for stricter (or any!) US laws governing international adoption agencies, but still nothing? And in the end, birth families and children are victims, and the only parties who get punished — by the very government who failed us in the first place — are PAPs. Even now, NOIDs and blocked provinces fail to solve the underlying problems, and certainly those truly guilty of any wrongdoing will simply continue their current practices elsewhere.

Comment by Nicki
2008-07-18 09:41:39

This is an interesting perspective. So from your vantage point the failure came 4 years ago when the original MOU was created? You feel that it was weak from the get-go and that the government should have seen the holes that they point out now and never agreed in the first place?

I also think, though, that we need to keep from entirely blaming our own government because they aren’t the only players. They never required the MOU to begin with, Vietnam should be held accountable as well for agreeing to criteria they clearly had no intention of acting on, shouldn’t they? And what about the agencies who find the loopholes and continue to encourage corruption through their actions? Shouldn’t they be held accountable as well?

I do think if we are going to hold our government at all accountable for the MOU they agreed to four years ago, with all its flaws, then we should stop pushing for a quick and dirty replacement that solves nothing. We should be encouraging them to take their time, negotiate in good faith for the end of corruption and in favor of transparency (rather than for the continuation of adoptions without pause, at all costs, to appease the constituent PAPs). That won’t happen quickly, imo.

 
 
Comment by Tracy
2008-07-18 18:20:50

I don’t think anyone thinks Vietnam is blameless in this mess, but then neither are the agencies or our own government. I for one expect a lot more out of the later two, as US citizens we have certain expectations of our government and as consumers we have pretty high standards for any agency that we are willing to pay tens of thousands of dollars to.

I am sure certain agencies are probably acting unethically or at the very least barely acceptable. But I have a problem with agencies like LSS and so many others that are doing all the “right things” like supporting the Catalyst Foundation (which is great) and getting the stamp of approval from VVAI and others when they are unable to produce referrals. I don’t care what humanitarian projects they have, their primary goal is as an adoption agency and they are failing their clients. There are so many agencies out there that have been taking money from clients (or raising their prices at the end when people are over a barrel-either pay after waiting 2 years or be out everything) when they know they will be unable to complete the adoptions. If they wanted to be a humanitarian program that is great, but that’s NOT why people have given them their money and for them to string these clients along with absolutely no results is unethical (IMO). These agencies need to be held accountable for way more than where the money goes. Bottom line (IMO) is when they realized they were not going to be able to place children in American homes they needed to stop taking money from PAPs.

I also think our government is to blame right along with the Vietnamese government. But I don’t pay taxes to the Vietnamese government, so I have way fewer expectations of them. The buzz word for so long in all of this has been “transparency”, but our own government is not being transparent with PAPs who are waiting long after the 60 days for their approvals. They have the right to know what is going on in their cases and what the status is-it’s not fair for our government to keep these families in limbo.

One more thing- I still can not figure out why our government has taken such a strong stand in Vietnam but not in China. If you read Brian Stuy’s site (he is very involved in China adoption) then you know that the exact same problems that are happening in Vietnam are also present in China. Why is it we never hear of NOIDs or RFE’s for China adoptions? I expect my government to be impartial and if they are able to resolve the China issues without making PAPs and the children suffer why can they not do the same for Vietnam? Is one countries stolen children a more important an issue than anothers? Or is it just that maybe we NEED China politically and economically and we don’t Vietnam? To me it’s either a problem or it’s not-the country of origin should not matter. I’m not saying they should close their eyes to problems, but the Vietnam program is a tiny baby compared to the China program. They have obviously already been able to resolve this issue in China, maybe the Hanoi Embassy needs to give the Guangzhou Embassy a phone call and find out the secret because they are in despirate need of a some answers.

Comment by Nicki
2008-07-18 18:50:40

Great points, Tracy. I agree that China needs to fall under the same microscope as every other country has fallen because if you look at the history of int’l adoption, it isn’t that Vietnam is being singled out, but it does very much look like china is being given special permissions and that is unacceptable. I also agree that agencies should have stopped accepting new clients when they knew that there was no realistic way of giving referrals. Although we all know that agencies can’t possibly continue to refer out healthy young babies to the number of families waiting in the next two months, several still continued to collect that application fee which is, of course, non-refundable! I can’t speak to LSS specifically one way or another.

The only thing I do disagree with, in part, is that it just feels like talking out both sides of our mouth when we talk about our own government. Do we want them to advocate for clean adoptions of true orphans? Do we want them to negotiate a new MOU? If the answer is yes than first they need to be given room to continue to investigate the issues as they come up and not be pressured by their constituents to push through adoptions that have not been properly investigated. Sometimes if we want one thing, we have to be willing to accept that it comes at a cost. Remember your “Be careful what you wish for” post? I think its a tough reality but its true. Does that mean I think the US government could not be more forthcoming? Not really. I do think they could, but my primary concern is that they are doing their job as visa investigators, not as public relations spokesmen. Does that totally TOTALLY suck for families stuck in the mess? It really really does. But the alternative sucks far worse for the babies so I think its an ok trade off. I have yet to see or read any sort of plan or suggestion for how our government could accomplish both the wishes of PAPs and the needs to investigate thoroughly and confidentially in Vietnam. If one exists, I’d be all for advocating for it. So far, though, everything I’ve read forsakes one for the other and if that’s the case, then I’m all for having PAPs tough it out if it means children are being truly cleared for adoption. And as a PAP I would have been all for it, too. Waiting several extra months is a small thing compared to adopting a baby who was stolen, bought or coerced from his family, imo.

Comment by Julie
2008-07-19 08:10:21

My personal wish is not for a NEW MOU, but rather an INTERIM MOU under which U.S. PAPs, who entered into an adoption contract in good faith, could complete their adoptions.

Under this temporary agreement, VN would agree to let the U.S. fully investigate each and every case to the extent that they feel is necessary, including DNA testing, unannounced orphanage visits – whatever it takes to determine that these adoptions are bona fide under what appears to be a very flawed system.

Then (or concurrently), VN should completely revamp their adoption procedures for applicants from ALL countries, not just the U.S. It seems to me that this desperately needs to happen for any real progress to be made in preventing corruption.

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Comment by Nicki
2008-07-20 09:43:45

AMEN!!!!!!!!!!!!

 
 
 
 
Comment by Tracy
2008-07-18 21:12:21

Honestly, I don’t think they should continue adoptions with Vietnam unless EVERYONE (Vietnam and the US) are crystal clear on the expectations/requirements and the US is confident (I know there is no way to know 100% for sure) that adoptions can be completed meeting their specifications.

I think in light of everything that they have already found they should investigate, I don’t have a problem with that, but if they find something-then they need to report it to the families. I think the families have the right to know whatever is being found during the investigation if it effects their visa-and that is what I do not think our government has been sharing (at least not in a timely manner). Right now there are a lot of families that are literally in limbo-the US gov won’t say “yes” or “no” to their applications and that is what I mean by our gov. needing to be transparent.

 
Comment by H
2008-07-19 16:43:03

I think, Tracy, that you should be careful when making the accusation as you have in your earlier post about “agencies taking money when they know they are unable to complete an adoption”. You imply this is the case with LSS. I think you should be a little more thoughtful when making those type of statements since you are obviously uninformed.

Comment by jena
2008-07-20 13:42:13

H-
It would be very helpful if you could point out specifically how Tracy is uniformed about LSS.
Any information would be helpful.
Jena

Comment by H
2008-07-21 11:15:25

Jena –
I can certainly expand…
I know for a fact that LSS is not taking money knowing they can’t complete an adoption. They were one of the first to stop taking applications into their program. Others that were already in their program stayed at the first step without beginning their dossier (and therefore paying any country fees) until they had made referrals and felt families could reasonably have forward progress in their program.

Again, my point was only that Tracy should be careful when making accusations unless she would like to provide a first hand account.

My point is not to start anything on this board. This should be a time for support and understanding.
David.

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Comment by jena
2008-07-21 20:17:24

David-
Thank you so much for that specific information, it really helps to give specifics to help dispel the misinformation.
Jena

 
 
 
Comment by Tracy
2008-07-21 21:06:06

David,

You are right on two things, first this is not a time to start a war-I was talking about an AGENCY (which to me is not personal) and we all have our own opinions and standards for agencies (a big one for me would be that they are actually able to produce referrals and complete adoptions) and second I do not have any first hand knowlege of this agency-I get my information from friends (in real life and online) who are using this agency-and have yet to be matched sadly.

I have a lot I could say about this agency (since you used my name 2x I am guessing you want to know what I think…haha), but I said my piece in my first statment about agencies (more than just LSS), honestly I understand why people are defensive right now-they have put their trust, time and money into agencies and may walk away without a baby. But I won’t say anything further about this agency because it’s just not worth hurting and/or making my friend (that I know in real life) angry or upset with me.

I hope everyone is matched, but my point was there are MANY families out there that will not be matched and some of that is the fault (IMO) of agencies. If you want to e-mail me privately I will be more than happy to tell you my thoughts (but I doubt you are truly interested) on LSS and others.

 
 
Comment by Mary
2008-07-20 08:24:03

I’ll clarify — our government’s DUTY is to protect us. They have failed — and they are punishing US for it. Do I think agencies are to blame? Heck, yes. But who’s supposed to be regulating and punishing them? Our state and federal government. To clarify further: our government, the Vietnamese government and some/many agencies are responsible for the current mess. Who for how much? I suppose that remains to be seen., but I think there’s plenty of blame to go around. But the innocent are very easy to spot, and who’s protecting them? And “them” includes us, APs and PAPs. As I said to start with, bad agencies will just move on, leaving a wake of pain and destruction behind them. But the same government who signed the MOU is failing to regulate agencies. How could DOS, after Vietnam last time and Cambodia as well, not have done a better job?

Comment by Nicki
2008-07-20 09:48:09

Regulation has to happen at the state level and it’s the federal government that signed the MOU. I could not agree with you more that there HAS to be more state-level regulation in place for agencies in order to protect both PAPs and especially the children in ALL adoptions in EVERY country including our own.

 
 
Comment by Mary
2008-07-20 21:30:04

Isn’t COA accreditation a tacit admission that the federal government also has a role in agency oversight? And let’s face it, many, many agencies work across state borders. Federal AND state regulation are needed.

 
Comment by Laurie
2008-07-25 22:29:44

GREAT post Christina. Very well thought out, as always. For the sake of maintaining a calm, peaceful community in the face of a lot of very scary and disheartening turmoil in Vietnam adoptions, I will limit my response to some of the above comments.
I looked into LSS for our 2nd adoption and was beyond impressed with this agency…only problem was that they had stopped accepting new applicants. And responsibly so.
Tracy, I just have to say I am surprised by the bones you choose to pick with agencies. Rather than faulting the ones who have overtly disgusting behavior, behaviors that have been named in writing, the agencies that have been called out again and again, you choose to vilify the ones who provide too much humanitarian aid because they aren’t focused enough on finding babies to refer when there are none. I think there are 2 ways to look at adoption practices – you can either put vulnerable babies and birth families first, or make PAPs desires first. I think you can only get into trouble by doing the latter.
That said, I do think there are agencies who have encouraged their waitlists to grow FAR beyond what they are capable of clearing with referrals and completed adoptions, and that is wrong. But in the light of all that’s transpired in VN adoptions, I just think there are bigger fish to fry here and if we focus on that we can’t see the forest for the trees.
I really really agree that there needs to be much more oversight of agencies, and our gov’t needs to do a better job of protecting its PAPs in that regard. Mary, you seem very knowledgeable about the legalities of agency licensure…what are your thoughts on Hague accreditation? Is it a step in the right direction?

Comment by Mary
2008-07-26 22:20:16

No Laurie, no more knowledgeable than anyone else. Just tired and saddened by the mess that Vietnam has become and angry at everyone who had a hand in it. And I just can’t figure out why history has to keep repeating itself. The Hague is certainly a step forward, but only a step. Ethica said it best:
Although the regulations purport to make agencies responsible for their supervised providers overseas, many, if not most, facilitators/attorneys will be exempt from this requirement. §96.46

And again:
Agencies can still ask (demand) that families sign waivers of responsibility that effectively place all of the risk in the adoption process on the adoptive parents. §96.39

You can see their full comments here:
http://www.ethicanet.org/HagueRegComments.pdf

 
 
Comment by Tracy
2008-07-26 00:49:06

Laurie-

You singled me out, so I feel compelled to write back. First of all I know you think I am the biggest supporter of unethical agencies and that is fine with me (because I know it’s not true). I have a thick skin, so I try not to let things like that bother me. I know I am so much more than just my opinions on international adoption. But I will NEVER for as long as I live forget the pain of infertility and what it was like to be a PAP. I do think that they are just as important as the children in this equation and I will always stand up for their rights. Advocates are needed on all sides of this issue, not just one.

I will NEVER forget the pain of knowing I would never have a biological child due to ovarian cancer and the even greater fear that I would never be a mother. I will never forget the fear of knowing that a virtual stranger (my social worker) had the power with her words to decide if I would be a fit parent and could take my dreams away from me with a bad homestudy report. Or wondering what I had done so wrong in my life to make God punish me when our surrogacy failed.

And although it’s true that holding that baby in your arms takes that pain away-it never removes the memories that brought you to that point. So the reason that I am writting this is because I am only one person and there are thousands and thousands of people (PAPs) out there that have their own stories. There are many of us out here whose only option (if we wanted to be mothers/fathers) was to adopt. And those people especially are suffering in all of this also and deserve a voice in all of this.

EVERY adoption agency needs to be held accountable for their actions. No matter if it’s because they are buying babies or taking on too many clients knowing they will be unable to place children in those homes. There is more than just one side to this story.

Sorry this was long and had too much of my own personal information in it, feel free to delete it Christina or Nikki

Comment by Mary
2008-07-28 08:47:55

Tracy,
I am so sorry for your pain and all you have gone through. You are very brave to try to turn your pain into love by turning to adoption.

I suppose the way I see it, agencies that have the strongest commitment to birth/first families and to children, adoptable or not, in orphanages will also have the strongest commitment to PAPs. That is especially true as things go downhill, like they are now. Many agencies will simply leave Vietnam and move on to other countries. Some, though, will continue their humanitarian work. Those agencies are the same that will work hardest for their clients and the children they also represent as time runs out. Their commitment is to adoption, not to money.

It took me a long time to think about things this way. We all know there are millions of children in orphanages worldwide — if those children are already in orphanages, why is a such a strong (and time-consuming) commitment to birth families so important? But as we’ve seen in Vietnam, children continue to come into orphanages. Once money from the US involved, our under-regulated agencies have to take responsibility to see the money is used wisely and not to tempt anyone to bring a child to an orphanage to be adopted. Some agencies ensure PAP money goes where it should. Some seem to use our money totally unethically (and yes, like the rest of you, I am waiting to see these agencies named and in REAL trouble); others seem to send our money in and not question their good luck as adoptable children appear at orphanages. I guess I’ve come to believe that there are too many of the last two kinds of agencies. Without stronger rules to guide them towards better accountability, PAPs like you and I will always be left in the lurch.

 
 
Comment by Louise
2008-07-26 11:37:59

Tracy-
I’m with you. The pain of infertility is hell.
So sorry that it is a reality for so many of us.

 
Comment by Julie
2008-07-27 09:15:43

We spend a lot of time talking about agencies – which ones are ethical, which ones are not, how much humanitarian aid they do or don’t do, etc. There probably are corrupt agencies (I say probably only because don’t have any firsthand knowledge of it) and there should probably be more oversight, but I think it is incorrect to place the majority of the blame for what happened in VN on adoption agencies.

I think it is the US/VN adoption system itself that is flawed and which inadvertently allows and sometimes even encourages corruption to take place. When you have a situation where vulnerable parties involved, large sums of money are changing hands, and a decentralized system lacking sufficient oversight and regulation under which participants are allowed to negotiate their own terms, then trouble is almost certainly going to follow.

It’s sort of like blaming someone for knocking a glass off the edge of a counter – yes, they definitely should’ve been more careful, but a fragile glass shouldn’t have been placed there in the first place.

I believe we need a different model which is able to better protect the vulnerability of ALL parties concerned: birthparents in developing countries, PAPs, orphans, and yes, even agencies themselves.

 
Comment by Laurie
2008-07-27 15:27:23

Tracy, you have again created a tangential discussion, and one that I feel detracts form the issues we were discussing. You have made it out like I have said something against people with fertility issues, or laid some reason for you to feel attacked because that was your reason for adopting. My initial comment had nothing to do with any of those topics. I am sorry for your struggles, and I cannot imagine how painful a road you have traveled to reach motherhood. However, I don’t feel that had anything to do with our topic of conversation here.
The point your comment again raises, however, is this sense of entitlement. I don’t think that because a person has struggled with infertility it gives them the right to wear blinder to the rights of birth moms or their children. I do think PAPs deserve protection in the adoption process, and I do NOT advocate for agencies who take advantage of PAPs (including the agencies who leave their families stranded with NOIDs and nowhere to turn). However, infertilily does not entitle anyone to a child through adoption or any other means. The only people in the triad I feel are legitimately entitled to anything are first families and their children. First parents / birth parents are entitled to raise their own children if they wish to, to take their children home from hospitals regardless of medical bills incurred during delivery, entitled NOT to be coerced or have their children kidnapped for international adoption, etc.. Children are entitled to remain with their first families WHENEVER possible. In the event that it is truly not a possibility, they are entitled to a family and loving environment in which to grow and be nurtured. That is the role for international adoption, IMO. I also believe we are all responsible for supporting the humanitarian efforts in our children’s birth countries.

As the popular slogan goes, an ethical agency has puts its priority in “finding families for children, not children for families.” I’d be interested to hear if anyone would actually argue against that motto.

I hope it is crystal clear that I am an adoption advocate, I support a PAPs right to an ethical adoption, but in international adoption I can only APPLAUD an agency that has put humanitarian efforts and made first family rights its priorities. I think the difference in our stances is that I believe I can advocate for PAPs in the context of ETHICAL adoptions.

The other piece of the humanitarian work versus # of referrals argument is that by ignoring the humanitarian need, you are doing NOTHING to help solve the underlying inequalities that exist. You are just encouraging a market for international adoption, which is not in the best interest for children who would be best off remaining with their birth families if it were a possibility. I know there may be people who will not see eye to eye with me here, as there may even be people out there with a genuine disinterest in helping find long-term solutions to these inequalities…because if they didn’t exist, they wouldn’t have been able to be a mother/father. And that, over ethical adoptions, over helping solve world issues, over everything, is their only goal. This is a VERY emotionally charged topic, but I cannot relate to that mentality – the entitlement, the “I-want-to-be-a-mom-at-all-costs,” the ethnocentric view (the most disturbing opinion of all to me) that Vietnam’s children are better off in American homes no matter what, etc.

I think you should continue to advocate for PAPs, but there are people at the other end of this process and there is a systemic impact each unethical adoption leaves. So please don’t advocate PAPs at all costs. There is just too much at stake.

There are so many other issues to address, but I’ve already written a comment longer than the actual post. I apologize for my long-windedness!

 
2008-08-31 20:25:35

[…] has become an everyday habit” as officials ignore fraud at home. (That I found linked off this article , which has both some good and some bad to it, at Voices for Vietnam Adoption Integrity which is […]

 
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