International Adoption and Imperialism

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Mon Feb 26 08:13:02 MST 2001

At 02:34 AM 2/26/01 -0500, you wrote:
>I came across this posted message while looking at adoption search engines.
>It's actually the first time I have heard it and now I am beginning to think
>about it.  The search is a personal one and being an International Adoptee
>myself, I am finding myself disgusted at the laws in certain countries, in
>the US and Third World Nations that deal directly with the adoption process.
>I have not however made a connection between International Adoptions and
>Imperialism.  In fact, (or perhaps I am already biased in my anger against
>adoption to realize) I almost feel that there is a connection.  I have no
>way of knowing if this point is legitmate or not...or if there is a direct
>relation to adoption and imperialism...
>Any thoughts?

The Observer, January 21, 2001

Stolen to order on the net: Amelia Hill investigates the growing trade in
babies taken from the poor of Central America

BYLINE: Amelia Hill

JOSEFA Ceballos was told her baby was dead as soon as she woke up after the
birth. She wasn't allowed to see his body, the nurse said, it had already
been disposed of. Ceballos had better get used to the idea and, she added,
get a move on and leave - the hospital needed her bed.

'I felt like my life had exploded,' Ceballos said. 'I wanted to die: he was
my first born. Those people tore my heart open.' As 14-year-old Ceballos
wept and prepared to return to her shanty town on the Guatemalan-Mexican
border, an expectant, wealthy couple in California were putting the final
touches to the bedroom of the baby they had been praying for for more than
10 months.

Within two days, the excited pair hoped to be proud parents. If all went
according to plan, a woman would call at their house to collect the last
instalment of the Dollars 20,000 they had agreed on and, in exchange, would
hand over a healthy baby boy, along with a receipt and the child's visa.

But it did not all go according to plan. Ceballos was not the defenceless
girl that the corrupt hospital staff had assumed and, thanks to the fury
and determination of her brothers, her son was quickly tracked down and
restored to his natural mother, to the distress and confusion of the
Californian couple who had been assured the adoption was in the bag.

An Observer investigation has discovered that the worldwide internet trade
in babies, highlighted by last week's extraordinary transaction between
Alan and Judith Kilshaw and Tina Johnson, the Californian adoption
facilitator, has an even darker side where mothers in the world's poorest
countries are cheated and intimidated into relinquishing their children for
the convenience of well-to-do couples throughout the world, who have used
the internet to demand the fast-track adoption of a newborn child. Aspiring
parents such as the Kilshaws frequently travel to America to take advantage
of the country's legal but completely unregulated private adoption process
which ensures incomparably quicker and smoother adoptions than in Britain.

But despite the speed and ease of America's private adoption process, it
can still take many months for a couple to find an American mother willing
to give up her newborn baby.

Instead, The Observer has discovered that aspiring parents are using the
internet to choose babies from some of the world's poorest countries and
paying for them to be brought to America, enabling them to be the proud
parents of a newborn baby within weeks.

'I know adults from Germany who have ordered Guatemalan children from
American websites,' said Bala Gopal, Unicef's senior child protection
adviser in Guatemala. 'They travel to America to pick them up and can be
home within days.'

Before the internet, couples were generally restricted to working with the
adoption agencies in their area, Gopal maintains. With the aid of the
internet, however, parents are able to seek out and contact agencies that
work with children from countries with little, if any, adoption legislation.

'The high international demand for children and the poverty experienced by
most Guatemalan families has created a situation where the processing of
adoptions occurs according to the laws of supply and demand,' he said.
'This effectively results in illegal obtaining of children, who are then
transferred to corrupt lawyers who give them the papers they need to enter
America for adoption.'

While the majority of intercountry adoptions are above board and provide a
much-needed, loving home for children orphaned or abandoned by
poverty-stricken families, the internet-facilitated adoption of
illegally-obtained children is a growing trade that is causing experts
serious concern.

'There is a lawless and unregulated side to the reality of adoption,' said
Cindy Freidmutter, executive director of the Evan B. Donaldson Institute, a
New York adoption policy group. 'The children are brought into the country
legally but they are removed from their birth mothers using all sorts of
tricks, from theft to force.'

Dr Dana Johnson, director of the respected International Adoption Clinic in
California, believes the problem is growing. 'When people are desperate for
children, the law is routinely ignored. This is happening now in any
country where you can bribe officials, where corruption is pervasive and
where money talks.'

The forthcoming ratification of the Hague Convention will make it harder to
adopt children without the natural mother's express permission but experts
believe the convention, drawn up in 1991 - long before the internet played
any role in facilitating adoptions - will not solve the problem.

'We must wait until the Second World Congress Against the Commercial and
Sexual Exploitation of Children takes place in Oklahoma at the end of the
year before the internet's role in these kinds of adoptions can be really
dealt with,' said Gopal. 'Until then, almost nothing can be done to stop
these dirty adoptions taking place.'

Louis Proyect
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