Intercountry adoption is in crisis. Over the last five years the number of children adopted from one country to another has halved. Many countries have closed their doors to this unaccountable industry. So, the adoption industry, driven by private adoption agencies, is facing difficult times. They have taken large sums of money from people who want to adopt, but they can no longer supply the children to satisfy the outstanding demand.
Russia is now the third largest “sending” country from where the US adopts children, after China and Ethiopia. These three countries are all confronted by a growing number of legal scandals which show that international adoption agencies routinely trample local laws in their search for adoptable children (a typical legal scam involves the falsely declaring of the child as an orphan or abandoned, thus clearing the way for international adoption). And yet these countries continue to export their children.
Having been involved in the Romanian child protection reform, on behalf of the European Commission, I have had the privilege of an insider’s look into the adoption “kitchen”, where the most common ingredients are political pressure and emotional blackmail. A nexus of adoption agencies, adoptive parents and politicians are using their powers to ensure that intercountry adoptions continue. Often they are successful. However, in Romania they were not. Successive Romanian governments, with support of the European Union, stood firm and took the decision to stop the export of their children -- a decision the adoption industry has continued to aggressively challenge for the last 5 years.
A main player in the adoption industry is the Joint Council on International Children’s Service, a US umbrella organisation of private adoption agencies. They are at the heart of a vicious lobby to make intercountry adoption a worldwide accepted practice. A recent leaked document showed that this organisation is suffering from a negative image, seen as a trade organisation, and is in financial difficulties. If things are not turned around somehow, they may have to close down this year. The closure of Russia could well be the last nail in their coffin.
It is therefore no surprise that the Joint Council has started an aggressive campaign to “keep Russia open” - titled WE ARE THE TRUTH. On the internet they are mobilising adoptive parents to sign a letter to President Medvedev and President Obama, to involve their Senators and to swamp the internet with positive adoption stories.
In these hot waters, the US State Department is now lobbying in Moscow, to push for Russia to “better regulate” adoptions, and to sign the Hague Convention. This Convention has been proven to be about consumer protection, not about protecting the rights of the child. It creates a legal trade in children and protects the interests of the adoptive parents – and even more the adoption agencies, not the children. It further has the perverse effect of making local child protection become dependent of the donations of foreign adoption agencies. This dependency results in a continuous flow of adoptable children. Children are taken out of the children’s homes for intercountry adoption, but new children are taken in. Children who could with little support, often remain with their families. Again, it is the demand that creates the supply.
Once children are adopted abroad, Russia can follow up on their well being only by requesting post adoption reports. Just some week ago the Russian Ministry of Education posted a long list of foreign adoption agencies that had not send in these post adoption reports. However, one has to understand that the post adoption reports are being provided by those involved in the adoption industry. There is sufficient evidence that such post adoption reports may paint a much rosier situation than the reality. After all, for Artyom Savelyev Russia received a positive post adoption report, just weeks before this boy was brutally send back. Also for Masha Allen, adopted at the age of five to the US for sexual slavery and internet pornography. To think a bilateral agreement will solve this is just wishful thinking.
Intercountry adoption is an industry in crisis. An industry that functions by the economic rules of supply and demand, which is now suffering due to a lack of supply. Not many countries still export their children.
It is up to Russia to decide the fate of its children.
"A country which is unable to care for her children is a country with no future and therefore I believe there should be no additional pressures to liberalise procedures for international adoption in Romania, meaning adoption of Romanian children by people of other nationalities with domicile abroad"
Sabin Cutas, Member of the European Parliament (Romania)