In America, we often see adoption as a good Samaritan act, but is it always so? After seeing an episode on adoption in a favorite show of mine, “Traffickers,” I began to do my own research and question this. Adoption usually has good intentions and can be very beneficial to young children, but it can also be a horrifying system.
When there is a demand, there is a supply, even if one isn’t readily available. Americans are willing to pay a large sum of money to “save” a child through adoption. Some adoption agencies and traffickers, especially in the Congo, take advantage of this. Teachers will go out into villages and offer parents an American or European education, at the end of which the children will supposedly return. The parents, often illiterate themselves, want the best education possible for their children, so they sign a document they can’t even read. Little do they know, by signing this document, they are giving away their children. The parents never see the children again, but the teachers and adoption agencies receive a grand payment.
I was horrified as I watched birth families come to this realization. When they confront the teachers, they are denied any information on where the children have gone. Many of the children are given new names and fake adoption papers so that American parents and adoption agencies feel as if they are helping the child. Little do they know that the parents’ death certificates have been faked.
Such adoption practices have many similarities to human trafficking. First off, both thrive in times of war and conflict. Secondly, there is a huge wealth gap in between the countries of origin and destination. Many adopted children and victims of human trafficking come from places such as Guatemala and Venezuela, and end up in places such as the US and UK. This is an indicator that poverty is a motivator in both businesses, especially since each adoption can bring in $25,000-$50,000 of profit, making adoption fraud very appealing. Also, both are usually found in places where corruption is thoroughly ingrained in the government.
So is illegal adoption human trafficking? According to the US government, no. This may be partly because our country makes a lot of money through the business, or maybe because they feel adoptive parents are unable to face the possible reality of their child’s background. Or maybe they do not recognize it as trafficking for more technical reasons; human trafficking must meet the three criterias of Acts, Means, and Purpose. The Act of this is basically kidnapping, and the Means of transportation can often be awful for the children. However, illegal adoption technically does not meet the Purpose criteria, since most children are not explicitly exploited and are ultimately given a “better” life.
At the same time however, measures taken against illegal adoption can harm some children. Srey Powers, an adopted child from Cambodia, remembers extreme abuses and awful labor conditions from her original home. However, two years after she was adopted, the US closed Cambodian adoptions because of “corruption.” What about all the other children from Cambodia who, unlike Srey, will never get their second chance?
This is obviously a very complicated situation, with no perfect solution. I’m not going to try and offer one either. My main goal in writing this is to spread awareness. I, personally, think I would like to adopt as an adult, but now that I know this information, I will carefully select a child whose agency I have done much research on.
As a 17 year old, I obviously do not have any real experience with parenthood, but I would still like to inform those of all ages who are curious about adoption. Adoption is a wonderful practice, if done correctly.